FRON­TIER AN­NOUNCES NEW FLIGHTS

Air­line broad­ens its net­work with 21 new cities and of­fers sale on fares

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Erin Dou­glas

Fron­tier Air­lines an­nounced an ex­pan­sion of its net­work — in­clud­ing 21 new des­ti­na­tions from Den­ver In­ter­na­tional Air­port — and a fare sale to fill the seats. The move, which comes as the Den­ver­based air­line pre­pares for an ini­tial pub­lic of­fer­ing, sig­nals a re­newed fo­cus on Fron­tier’s pri­mary hub af­ter sev­eral years of re­duc­tions at DIA.

Fron­tier Air­lines on Tues­day an­nounced an ex­pan­sion of its net­work — in­clud­ing 21 new des­ti­na­tions from Den­ver In­ter­na­tional Air­port — and a fare sale to fill the seats.

The move, which comes as the Den­ver­based air­line pre­pares for an ini­tial pub­lic of­fer­ing, sig­nals a re­newed fo­cus on Fron­tier’s pri­mary hub af­ter sev­eral years of re­duc­tions at DIA.

Fron­tier said the ex­pan­sion, in­clud­ing non-Den­ver routes, in­creases the num­ber of des­ti­na­tions served by the car­rier by 30 per­cent and dou­bles the num­ber of to­tal routes.

ex­ec­u­tives joined air­port of­fi­cials in mak­ing the an­nounce­ment at DIA, hail­ing the ex­pan­sion as an im­por­tant step for both. The ex­pan­sion po­si­tions Fron­tier ahead of South­west Air­lines and be­hind United Air­lines in terms of des­ti­na­tions served from DIA, al­though Fron­tier re­mains third in pas­sen­ger traf­fic, of­fi­cials said.

“Our home­town is very im­por­tant to us,” Fron­tier chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer Jimmy Dempsey said. “We have been a Coloradobased air­line for 23 years.”

The new flights will roll out be­gin­ning this fall and will be fully sched­uled by next sum­mer. Six of the flights were avail­able for book­ing im­me­di­ately: Al­bu­querque; Ok­la­homa City; On­tario, Calif.; Palm Springs, Calif.; Reno, Nev.; and San Jose, Calif.

The an­nounce­ment comes sev­eral months af­ter a ma­jor cus­tomer-re­la­tions night­mare for the low-cost air­line. In De­cem­ber, hun­dreds of flights were can­celled due to a Den­ver storm, pre­vent­ing cus­tomers from reach­ing their hol­i­day des­ti­na­tions. A month af­ter the fi­asco, Fron­tier’s chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer and vice pres­i­dent of cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence stepped down.

The added flights will ben­e­fit Den­ver cus­tomers, said DIA chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer Pa­trick Heck. He said adding Fron­tier as a car­rier to des­ti­na­tions that pre­vi­ously

only had one will in­crease com­pe­ti­tion and cause fares to fall.

“Of our top 50 des­ti­na­tions (from DIA), 49 of them will now have com­pet­i­tive ser­vice, mean­ing they have more than one car­rier on that route,” Heck said. “So, that is great news for con­sumers.”

New routes from Den­ver in­clude Boise, Idaho; Cal­gary, Al­berta; Charleston, S.C.; El Paso; Fresno, Calif.; Jack­son, Wyo.; Louisville, Ky.; and Tulsa, Okla.

Heck ex­pects the new flights will drive more traf­fic to DIA, as Fron­tier’s low-price model may per­suade cost-savvy cus­tomers to fly when they nor­mally wouldn’t have.

As DIA works to ac­com­mo­date air­line ex­pan­sions such as Fron­tier’s, the air­port is look­ing to ex­pand. It will get six new gates for con­course A by the end of the year — not specif­i­cally for Fron­tier — and is pur­su­ing gate ex­pan­sions for all of its con­courses over the next two to three years.

“It’s no se­cret that we are burst­ing at the seams right now with all the growth we’ve seen from Fron­tier and other car­ri­ers,” Heck said. “We are re­ally pur­su­ing some growth and ex­pan­sion. (Con­course A) will give us a lit­tle bit of breath­ing room to al­low car­ri­ers to con­tinue their growth while we look at more long-term per­ma­nent ex­pan­sions.”

Fron­tier is also ex­pand­ing. Dempsey said the com­pany, which has grown by more than 20 per­cent this year, ex­pects to grow by 15 per­cent next year. In March, the ul­tra-low cost car­rier filed reg­u­la­tory pa­per­work for an ini­tial pub­lic of­fer­ing.

While Dempsey said Fron­tier can op­er­ate the new des­ti­na­tions with cur­rent re­sources, he said the air­line will eval­u­ate the growth through the next six to eight months to see what in­fra­struc­ture the car­rier might need from DIA.

“We con­tinue to add sub­stan­tial amounts of air­craft ev­ery year,” Dempsey said. “This is not the end. … We have put the busi­ness on a very strong fi­nan­cial foot­ing in the last three years which fa­cil­i­tates our growth plans in the com­ing years.”

Fron­tier will of­fer fares as low as $39 one way for a limited time — most will be valid from Nov. 2 through March 8. The air­line will add other new routes around the coun­try, mainly fo­cus­ing on win­ter ser­vice to warm des­ti­na­tions, namely Mi­ami and other Florida des­ti­na­tions (Tampa, Or­lando and Fort My­ers), as well as Can­cun.

All told, the com­pany added 21 cities served (now to­tal­ing 82) and 85 new routes (1,000, in­clud­ing con­nec­tions, by next sum­mer). Non­stop routes will dou­ble to 314. At DIA, Fron­tier will be the only car­rier to of­fer a di­rect flight to Buf­falo, N.Y.

Since Fron­tier un­veiled its ul­tra-low cost model in 2014, the air­line ac­tively worked to de­crease its re­liance on DIA, ac­cord­ing to the fil­ing. In De­cem­ber 2013, more than 90 per­cent of Fron­tier flights orig­i­nated or ended in Den­ver. This past De­cem­ber, that num­ber had fallen to about 45 per­cent. And, in 2015, Fron­tier asked the city for per­mis­sion to give up six of its 14 gates at DIA.

In April, Fron­tier re­stored eight flights out of DIA.

“It has been a phe­nom­e­nally suc­cess­ful part­ner­ship (be­tween DIA and Fron­tier),” Dempsey said. “This is the next step in the re­la­tion­ship with Den­ver.”

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