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Frontier adds dozens of new routes in possible strategy shift


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Frontier Airlines announced a slew of new routes this week that will see the ultra-low-cost carrier expand its footprint at more than three dozen airports – dramatically scaling up its presence at a handful of those.

In all, the Denver-based budget airline announced 54 new routes, by TPG’s count, across 38 airports. Many of the new routes start in April, May or at the very beginning of June.

“This is a massive expansion of our operation from coast to coast and internationally,” Frontier vice president of network and operations design Josh Flyr said in a statement announcing the news Tuesday.

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But it’s where the airline is expanding that has caught the eyes of some industry observers.

Taking on competitors

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Many of Frontier’s new routes put the airline head-to-head with some of its largest U.S. competitors.

For instance, the airline will expand its presence most significantly at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), the home base of American Airlines. With 14 new routes out of DFW, Frontier will offer about 28% more seats during the second quarter of 2024 versus that same period in 2023, according to data from aviation analytics firm Cirium.

Frontier will offer new service (albeit just a few times weekly) on several hub-to-hub routes of the largest U.S. carriers. It will fly between Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) and DFW and Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD) — both American hubs. United Airlines runs a large hub out of O’Hare.

It will offer four weekly round trips between Delta Air Lines hubs in Atlanta and Minneapolis while also flying between Los Angeles and San Francisco — two United Airlines hubs.

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Meanwhile, Frontier will offer fewer seats in the second quarter to Las Vegas, Orlando and Cancun — leisure destinations that are typically a hallmark of low-cost carriers’ networks.

Travel better: Which low-cost carrier card is best? Frontier Airlines World Mastercard vs. Free Spirit Travel More World Elite Mastercard

Frontier executives teased this strategy shift late last year amid widespread industry commentary — which came perhaps most loudly from United executives — that airlines have simply added too many flights to popular domestic leisure destinations.

Though the competition can help drive lower airfare for travelers, it can make filling seats more challenging for airlines.

Frontier CEO Barry Biffle, speaking on the carrier’s October 2023 third-quarter earnings call, cited an “uneven deployment of capacity” in the U.S. affecting Frontier’s earnings performance.

Frontier CEO Barry Biffle. DAVID SLOTNICK/THE POINTS GUY

“We will be targeting growth kind of away from those places that have been saturated — in the more underserved markets — as we move into [2024],” Biffle told analysts last fall, seemingly forecasting a change in the airline’s network strategy.

To that end, data from Cirium shows Frontier also plans to wind down at least six routes in the coming months, each of which touches a warm-weather destination in the U.S., Mexico or the Caribbean.

Spirit-JetBlue aftermath a factor?

It’s also worth noting that Frontier’s network changes come just days after a federal judge sided with the U.S. Department of Justice in blocking JetBlue’s planned merger with prominent low-cost competitor Spirit Airlines.

It’s unlikely the timing is coincidental, said Kerry Tan, an economics professor at Loyola University in Baltimore, whose research focuses on airline fares and competition. While Frontier likely didn’t rush out its route map update in the wake of the ruling, he said Frontier had almost certainly been anticipating how to better compete as the ultra-low-cost segment of the market was set for a major shake-up with the court decision looming.

“I think Frontier was always going to try and position themselves, post JetBlue-Spirit, as the new, go-to ultra-low-cost carrier,” Tan offered.

How successful might Frontier be as it adds presence on several larger airlines’ home turf?

“I think they know that trying to compete head-to-head with some of the major airlines at their hub — they’re not going to attract everyone,” Tan said. “But I think there’s a special niche market that ultra-low-cost carriers can cater to and really succeed with. And that’s the leisure traveler that’s trying to get to their destination as cheaply as possible, and don’t need some of the amenities that the major airlines provide.”

Frontier A321neo-1. DAVID SLOTNICK/THE POINTS GUY

New routes announced

In all, Frontier’s network changes include expanded operations at 38 airports across the country.

On top of more than a dozen new routes at DFW, the carrier is adding eight new flights out of San Juan, Puerto Rico — where it recently established a new crew base. It’s adding seven new flights out of Charlotte, and six out of Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) in North Carolina.

  • ATL-MSP — starts April 10, operates four times weekly
  • BNA-DFW — starts April 21, operates four times weekly
  • BOS-RDU — starts April 10, operates four times weekly
  • BUF-CLT — starts May 17, operates three times weekly
  • BWI-CLT — starts April 10, operates daily
  • BWI-MDW — starts April 10, operates three times weekly; then four times weekly as of May 25
  • BWI-DTW — starts April 10, operates four times weekly
  • CLE-MSP — starts May 17, operates four weekly round trips
  • CLE-LGA — starts April 10, operates daily
  • CLT-LGA — starts April 10, operates daily
  • CLT-IAH – starts April 21, operates three times weekly
  • CLT-DFW — starts April 11, operates three times weekly
  • CLT-ORD – start April 11, operates three times weekly
  • CLT-SJU – starts June 1; operates once daily, but once weekly on northbound trip
  • CVG-MSP — starts May 16, operates three times weekly
  • CVG-LGA — starts April 10, operates daily
  • DEN-LAX, starts April 10, operates daily
  • DEN-ORD, starts April 10, operates daily
  • DEN-LGA, starts May 16, operates daily
  • DFW-IAH, starts April 21, operates twice daily
  • DFW-OMA, starts May 17, operates three times weekly
  • DFW-IND, starts April 22, operates four times weekly
  • DFW-ORD, starts April 10, operates daily
  • DFW-MSP, starts April 21, operates four times weekly
  • DFW-GRR, starts May 16, operates three times weekly
  • DFW-PVR, starts May 16, operates two times weekly (pending government approval)
  • DFW-DTW, starts April 22, operates four times weekly
  • DFW-SLC, starts April 11, operates three times weekly
  • DFW-RSW, starts April 22, operates four times weekly
  • DFW-LAX, starts April 10, operates daily
  • DFW-PDX, starts April 21, operates four times weekly
  • IAH-MDW, starts April 11, operates four times weekly
  • LAS-LAX, starts April 10, operates daily
  • LAX-PHX, starts April 10, operates daily
  • LAX-SFO, starts April 10, operates daily
  • LGA-RDU, starts April 10, operates daily
  • MIA-RDU, starts April 10, operates daily
  • MKE-RDU, starts May 16, operates three times weekly
  • MSP-PHL, starts May 21, operates daily
  • ONT-PDX, starts April 10, operates daily
  • ONT-SLC, starts April 10, operates daily
  • ORD-RDU, starts April 11, operates three times weekly
  • PDX-SFO, starts May 21, operates daily
  • PHX-STL, starts April 10, operates four times weekly
  • RDU-TPA, starts April 10, operates daily
  • SAN-SFO, starts April 10, operates daily
  • SFO-SLC, starts April 10, operates daily
  • SJU-FLL, starts June 1, operate four times weekly
  • SJU-BOS, starts June 2, operates three times weekly
  • SJU-ORF, starts June 2, operates three times weekly
  • SJU-PBI, starts June 2, operates three times weekly
  • SJU-RSW, starts June 2, operates three times weekly
  • SJU-STX, starts June 2, operates three times weekly (pending government approval)
  • SJU-SXM, starts June 3, operates twice weekly (pending government approval)

Frontier offering flight deals

The airline is also offering some pretty compelling deals, with base fares on some routes starting as low as $19 on many of these new routes. You’ll need to book by the end of the night on Jan. 25 to tap into this “mega deal.”

And, keep in mind, there are quite a few restrictions that apply to the deal, from blackout dates to specified travel dates and days of the week — so your best bet may be to search your ideal travel itinerary and see if the prices match up.

As always with low-cost carriers like Frontier, keep in mind that the base fares are only a starting point, and you’ll likely pay a lot more than $19 for “extras” like a full-sized carry-on, checked bag or seat selection.

Route eliminations

Frontier has also filed plans to eliminate a half-dozen routes, as shown in data from Cirium.

  • BNA-MCO
  • TPA-BQN
  • BWI-CUN
  • BWI-PHX
  • DEN-JAX
  • MCO-MBJ

A Frontier spokesperson did not confirm the cuts, but said any route eliminations are unrelated to the new routes announced this week.

“None of the significant growth cities are associated with year-over-year cuts within that same city, but more generally are best thought of as part of our orienting the network towards underserved and overpriced markets,” the airline told TPG.

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