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 January 24, 2007, Frontier was designated as a major carrier by the United States Department of Transportation.
In March 2007, Republic Airlines slowly began replacing Horizon Air as the operator of their feeder service, Frontier Airlines operated by Republic Airlines; Frontier JetExpress, which was operated by Horizon Air, ceased operations on November 30, 2007. In April 2008, Frontier and Republic terminated their agreement and Republic withdrew its aircraft from Frontier service on June 23, 2008.
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.
After months of losses, Frontier Airlines reported that they made their first profit during the month of November 2008. Frontier Airlines reported $2.9 million in net income during the month of November.
On June 22, 2009, Frontier Airlines announced that pending bankruptcy court approval, Republic Airways Holdings, an Indianapolis based airline-holding company, would acquire all assets of Frontier Airlines for the amount of $108 million. Thus, Frontier Airlines would become a wholly owned subsidiary of Republic. However, 5 weeks later on July 30, Dallas-based Southwest Airlines announced that it would be making a competing bid of $113.6 million for Frontier with intentions to also operate Frontier as a wholly owned subsidiary, but also announced that it would gradually fold Frontier resources into current Southwest operating assets.
During a bankruptcy auction on August 13, 2009, Republic Airways Holdings acquired Frontier Airlines and its regional airline, Lynx Aviation, as wholly owned subsidiaries. Republic completed the transaction on October 1, 2009 and Frontier officially exited bankruptcy as a new airline.
In late 2009 Republic began to consolidate administrative positions and moved 140 jobs from the Frontier Airlines Denver headquarters to Indianapolis, Indiana. Shortly after that, in January 2010, Republic Airways announced that it will move all of its executives to Indianapolis. In February the Denver Business Journal stated that the headquarters would be moved "soon." Despite this, according to the Denver Business Journal, Frontier Airlines will still maintain a local headquarters in Denver to house Training, Marketing, Customer Reservations, & Scheduling & Planning teams after extending its lease on the building through 2020.
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.
Unlike some low-cost carriers, Frontier operates a hub and spoke route system, with more than 95% of ICAO "FFT" flights originating or arriving at its Denver hub. While the hub system can move people efficiently, it is also dependent on critical coordination at a single point. Hub-and-spoke systems like Frontier's can simplify passenger connections. Long-distance itineraries between Frontier cities generally require no more than one connection (usually in Denver), whereas a linear carrier may require multiple connections to span a long distance. Hub-and-spoke systems can also simplify maintenance, as all aircraft transit a hub frequently.
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 deferred expansion in the competitive East Coast cities such as Boston and Pittsburgh, but otherwise is expanding outside the US in Mexico. The airline recently dropped seasonal service to Calgary with Frontier JetExpress, Frontier has also dropped seasonal service to Vancouver, BC. The carrier serves four Florida tourist destinations and the business essential cities of New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC along the East Coast. The remaining Eastern interior city destinations are in the Midwest along with Atlanta and Nashville in the South. Contrary to Southwest Airlines, Frontier uses only two alternative airports in the East with the Akron-Canton Regional Airport, which services the Cleveland and Pittsburgh markets and with Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport, which serves the Norfolk area market. On May 22, 2007, the airline announced its schedule for service to its fourth country, Costa Rica. Frontier began operating to San José four times per week from its hub in Denver on November 30, 2007. This marks Frontier's first entry into Central America. Early 2008, frequency was increased to five times per week and will become seasonal, not operating from mid-September until mid-December.
On June 25, 2008, Frontier announced it would be cutting 21 of its daily departures, effective late August. Some routes are eliminated, some are temporarily halted until spring, and some are reduced in frequency.
In February 2002, the airline launched its first regional product, Frontier JetExpress, initially operated by Mesa Airlines using CRJ-200 regional jets. Similar to "express" operations of other carriers, Frontier JetExpress is targeted for markets to and from Denver that do not generate traffic sufficient to support Frontier's smallest mainline jet, the Airbus A318, but can still offer lucrative business with a smaller jet. The operation's head office was in the Hughes Center in Clark County, Nevada.
The initial JetExpress partnership with Mesa ended in January 2004, when Horizon Air was selected to operate the routes. Horizon utilized slightly larger CRJ-700 aircraft on these routes. In August 2006, Frontier and Horizon announced that their partnership would end. While Frontier was generally pleased with Horizon's operation, the carrier decided that it needed to revisit the agreement and find a provider with additional regional jets to grow the operation. The last of the CRJ-700's was returned to the Horizon Air fleet on November 30, 2007.
On January 11, 2007, Frontier Airlines announced it had signed an 11-year service agreement with Republic Airlines. Under the agreement, Republic was to operate 17, 76-seat Embraer 170 aircraft for the former Frontier JetExpress operations. At the time the contract was canceled in April 2008, Republic Airlines operated 11 aircraft for Frontier Airlines, with the remaining six aircraft expected to join the fleet by December 2008. With the integration of Republic aircraft, the 'JetExpress' denotation was removed. Subsequent to the cessation of Horizon's services for Frontier in December 2007, all flights operated by Republic were sold and marketed as "Frontier Airlines, operated by Republic Airlines." The first market created specifically for the Embraer 170 was Louisville, Kentucky, which began on April 1, 2007. Service to Louisville was suspended in August 2008 but restarted in April 2010.
Flights operated by Republic Airlines offered in-flight snack and beverage services similar to Frontier's mainline flights. Unlike Frontier's aircraft and due to the nature of contracting with regional carriers, these Embraer 170 aircraft were not fitted with LiveTV.
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.
The Frontier Airlines livery consists of an all-white fuselage with silver billboard-style "Frontier" titles on the sides of the aircraft. Frontier uses wildlife photography on the vertical stabilizers and winglets of the aircraft to produce a distinctive look, touted in their advertisements along with their slogan: "A Whole Different Animal".
The concepts used in the livery extend into Frontier’s marketing as well. Animal aircraft used in their radio and television commercials include Jack the rabbit, Grizwald the bear, Foxy the fox (for whom Jack has a crush), Flip the dolphin (who always gets stuck going to Chicago rather than the warmer climates the others are going to), Larry the lynx, Hector the sea otter, and Sal the cougar. New additions are Penguins Jim, Joe, Jay, and Gary, a barbershop-style quartet, singing the praises of EarlyReturns to an audience of Frontier’s well-known characters from the "a whole different animal" campaign, and Hector the otter, advertising Frontier's expanded service to Mexico.
Since the merger with Midwest Airlines, Frontier is in the process of repainting 43 Embraer aircraft with the Frontier livery. As of September 2010, four aircraft had been repainted with Frontier Airlines’ livery, the entire process is expected to be completed by December 2011.
Each animal on the tail of a Frontier Airlines Airbus and Lynx Aviation Q400 has a name, the most famous being "Larry the Lynx," "Grizwald the Bear," "Jack the Rabbit", "Flip the Dolphin", "Hector the Sea Otter", and "Jim, Joe, Jay, and Gary the Penguins" for being heavily featured in Frontier advertising. When Frontier was promoting its then-New Mexico service, the airline launched its "Send Flip to Mexico" campaign, and Frontier's "Denver's Favorite Animal" campaign continues to shine attention upon their popular tails.
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.