Frontier Airlines, Inc., is an American airline headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, United States. The carrier, which is a subsidiary and operating brand of Republic Airways Holdings, operates flights to 83 destinations throughout the United States, Mexico, and Costa Rica and maintains hubs at Denver International Airport, Milwaukee's General Mitchell International Airport, Kansas City International Airport, and Omaha's Eppley Airfield. It provides regional service to the surrounding Rocky Mountain States through a code-share agreement with Great Lakes Airlines. Frontier is not a member of an air carrier alliance.
Frontier Airlines was incorporated on February 8, 1994, by a group that included executives of a previous incarnation of Frontier Airlines in response to the void left by Continental Airlines' 1993 shutdown of its Denver (Stapleton) hub. Scheduled flights began five months later in July 1994 utilizing Boeing 737 aircraft. Like the original, Frontier flew out of Denver. In 1999, Frontier signed agreements to begin purchasing and leasing Airbus A318 and A319 aircraft to expand its fleet. The airline took delivery of its first Airbus aircraft (an A319) in 2001 and simultaneously launched with it DirecTV in-flight television along with a new company livery. Frontier Airlines was the launch customer of the Airbus A318 in 2003. In mid-April 2005, Frontier officially became an all-Airbus fleet, retiring its last 737.
As part of its plan to stay competitive, the company underwent a reorganization early in 2006. On April 3, 2006, Frontier created Frontier Airlines Holdings, Inc. (FRNT), a holding company incorporated in Delaware to take advantage of favorable tax laws in that state. The corporate headquarters did not leave Colorado. In November 2006, Frontier Airlines partnered with AirTran Airways, allowing frequent fliers to earn airline miles in its EarlyReturns frequent flyer program, or AirTran's A+ frequent flyer program. In addition, the airlines refer customers to each other when appropriate. In July 2010, after Frontier Airlines merged with Midwest Airlines it ended its partnership with AirTran .
On April 10, 2008, Frontier announced that it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy due to its credit card processor, First Data, attempting to withhold significant proceeds from ticket sales. First Data decided that it would withhold 100% of the carrier's proceeds from ticket sales beginning May 1. According to Frontier's press release, "This change in practice would have represented a material change to our cash forecasts and business plan. Unchecked, it would have put severe restraints on Frontier's liquidity..." Its operation continues uninterrupted, though, as Chapter 11 bankruptcy protects the corporation's assets and allows restructuring to ensure long-term viability.
As Republic Airways Holdings was in process of bidding to acquire Frontier in 2009, it was also in the process of acquiring Milwaukee-based Midwest Airlines. Through the fall and winter of 2009, Republic operated its two new acquisitions as separate brands. However, to improve efficiency by better matching aircraft capacity to route demand, Republic began to intermix the fleets of the two airlines, swapping a portion of its higher-capacity planes from Frontier with its smaller-capacity planes from Midwest and vice versa. However, the move caused some confusion amongst the public, as the two brands did not offer the same amenities and did not match the amenities mentioned on the airfare. As a result, in Spring of 2010 it was announced that the Frontier and Midwest Airlines brands would merge. On April 13, Republic announced that the Frontier Airlines name would be kept.
On April 13, 2011, Frontier announced the formation of a new subsidiary, Frontier Express, that was planned to operate the airline's smaller aircraft with different services than those available on full-size aircraft.
Frontier has been awarded the FAA Diamond award for ten years straight, from 1999 through 2009. The Diamond award recognizes carriers whose mechanics and maintenance staff complete additional training and certifications beyond that required for normal FAA certification. In order to receive this award, a minimum of 25 percent of an airline's mechanics and maintenance staff must complete this additional training. Frontier is the only airline to have consecutively received this award for the last seven years, as well as the only airline to ever receive this award with 100% participation from its maintenance staff. Frontier's staff has maintained 100% participation for the last seven consecutive years during which it has earned this award.
The vast majority of Frontier flights operate through its hub in Denver. Frontier's Denver operations utilize the majority of gates on Concourse A; the airline operates out of 29 of Concourse A's 43 gates. Frontier's Airbus A318 aircraft are too tall to pass under the pedestrian bridge over the south ramp of Concourse A. Frontier did attempt to establish a focus city at Los Angeles International Airport during 2004, but retreated under heavy competition and the sudden spike in fuel prices at the time. In June 2006, Frontier returned to the California market with five daily nonstop flights between Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as daily non-stop service linking San Francisco to Las Vegas. However, these routes were short-lived and eventually discontinued in July 2007. Internationally, the airline does offer a number of routes to Mexican destinations that do not begin or end at Denver.
Frontier has used 7001 Tower Road since 2001. Before the Republic Airways Holdings purchase of Frontier, the Denver facility served as the airline's corporate headquarters. After Republic purchased Frontier, on January 14, 2010, Frontier announced that its executive management would move to Indianapolis, Indiana. After a journalist asked Carlo Bertolini, a spokesperson for Republic, if the Frontier headquarters was moving, Bertolini said "That's a fair assessment." Republic refers to the Denver local office as the "commercial headquarters" of Frontier Airlines. By August 2009, the airline extended the lease on the Denver facility until 2020. Mark Harden of the Denver Business Journal said "it said that" the airline was moving its customer relations and reservations groups into the Denver local office in August 2010, resulting in an additional 500 employees working at the office.
Frontier was a Boeing 737 Classic operator during the late 1990s and early 2000s, operating only Boeing 737-300 aircraft; by the 3rd quarter of 2001, Frontier decided that the airline's Boeing 737 fleet was becoming dated and less efficient. Beginning in the first quarter of 2002, they slowly phased out the Boeing 737-300s with new Airbus A319-100 aircraft which Airbus claims are 15% more efficient than the older jets. Since the merger with Midwest Airlines was announced in April 2010, Frontier has inherited Embraer E135, E145, E170 and E190 aircraft. Frontier is also in the process of retiring its fleet of Bombardier Q400s and Airbus A318s; Frontier’s fleet of Bombardier Q400s is to be replaced by Embraer E170 and Embraer E190 aircraft; the retirement of the Q400s began in early 2010 and is expected to be complete by April 2011. Frontier's fleet of A318s is also in the process of being retired, in September–October 2010, four of the nine aircraft are to be retired and be replaced by six newly leased Airbus A320s, Frontier has not yet announced plans for the remaining five aircraft, but they are expected to be fully retired sometime in 2011.
Frontier offers a single class of service. While Frontier does market itself as a low-cost carrier, it differentiates itself in the market by offering different bundled amenity options as part of its AirFairs program. Warm chocolate chip cookies are served on all flights longer than 500 miles that depart after 10:00 AM local time.
Launched in December 2008, as part of the AirFairs program, passengers can choose among a basic "economy" fare, a "classic" fare that includes complimentary checked bags and in-flight television, and a "classic plus" fare that is fully refundable and offers free flight changes.
Economy: The economy fare targets passengers who do not need to check bags and do not expect to change their flight. Amenities available for purchase include: snacks, checked bags and in-flight television. Should a passenger need to change their ticket, a $100.00 change fee as well as fare difference is charged. Passengers earn 100% of the EarlyReturns frequent flier miles. This is the lowest cost ticket available for purchase and is non-refundable.
Classic: The classic fare most closely represents Frontier's traditional level of cabin service. Purchasers of this fare get two complimentary checked bags and complementary DirectTV television programming. Itinerary changes are made at a cost of a $50.00 change fee as well as fare difference. This is the mid-level cost ticket and is non-refundable.
Classic plus: Fares in this category are fully refundable, and flight changes, even on the same day, do not carry an extra fee. Besides the freebies included with the classic fare, passengers receive priority boarding, an in-flight snack and a premium beverage. EarlyReturns miles are credited at 150 percent.
Beginning April 28, 2008, Frontier began offering the Grizwald's Gourmet Cafe buy on board service. This service provides passengers with a variety of snack options available for purchase on board. They include offerings from Mountain Man Fruit and Nut Company and Udi's Handcrafted Foods. Fresh sandwiches and salads from Udi's are also available on select Airbus flights.
Frontier was one of the first carriers to offer a virtual "mall" or the Frontier More Store, allowing elite Ascent or Summit frequent-flyers to spend accrued miles on merchandise and unique services. As of May 30, 2008, Frontier Airlines discontinued the "More Store" due to the filing of Chapter 11 protection on April 10, 2008.
EarlyReturns is Frontier Airlines’ frequent flier program. It is a mileage-based program that contains three levels. Upon enrolling, members start at the first level, Base, and accrue miles commensurate with actual air miles traveled on Frontier. Once a member accumulates 15,000 miles in a calendar year, they reach the Ascent level and receive free DIRECTV service, priority boarding and ticketing, priority seat assignments, a 25% mileage bonus in addition to miles accrued, and other perks. The third level, Summit, is awarded for the accrual of 25,000 miles in a calendar year and adds a 50% mileage bonus in addition to miles accrued on each flight. Besides receiving the same benefits as Ascent members, Summit members also receive complimentary alcoholic beverages. Free round trip tickets between all destinations in the contiguous U.S. as well as to Alaska require 25,000 miles, and round trip award tickets to and from Mexico and Costa Rica require 35,000 miles.