Frontier Airlines’ route droppings revealed; 23 airport pairs no longer served with O’Hare and Atlanta seeing biggest changes

Does a bear do route droppings in the woods? Well this Frontier Airlines one does – 23 to be exact. Despite launching 56 more routes this summer when compared to S16, including 30 this week, the Denver-based ULCC has also dropped 23 airport pairs in the same time period. Focus cities of Atlanta and Chicago O’Hare have seen the most churn.

Denver-based Frontier Airlines has grown rapidly in the last four years following its transition to a ULCC business model. In the summer of 2013, which was a year of consolidation, the Indigo Partners-owned carrier was operating around 130 routes. By S17 that number had risen to just under 250 – an 88% increase. Clearly Frontier, like all carriers, regularly reviews its network and identifies routes that are failing to meet its financial targets. According to OAG schedules data, between S16 and S17 the airline’s route network has increased by 56 from 192 routes to 248. However, this rather disguises the fact that 79 routes were added but, more significantly, that 23 were dropped.

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser.

Denver is #1 for Frontier

A total of 66 airports have received Frontier flights this summer – up from 59 a year ago. New to the airline’s network in S17 are the eight airports of San Juan (SJU), Providence (PVD), Long Island MacArthur (ISP), Punta Gorda (PGD), Ontario (ONT), San Jose (SJC), Havana (HAV) and Albuquerque (ABQ), with Montego Bay (MBJ) being lost. As expected, the airline’s top 13 airport for destinations are a mixture of its main operational bases and its top destination markets. Indeed, while its Denver base is #1, all of the ULCC’s nine focus cities – Atlanta, Chicago O’Hare, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Las Vegas, Miami, Orlando, Philadelphia and Trenton – are also represented in the chart below.

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser.

Denver is by far the airline’s biggest base – in the week commencing 11 October, the carrier is flying over 64,000 seats from the airport on 375 weekly frequencies. Frontier currently offers non-stop flights to 56 destinations from the US’ sixth busiest airport. For comparison, fellow ULCC Allegiant Air from its biggest base (in terms of destinations) at Orlando Sanford serves 71 destinations this summer, while Spirit Airlines offers service to 50 destinations from its largest operation at Fort Lauderdale.

The 23 dropped routes – O’Hare hit worst

Using OAG Schedules Analyser data, has identified 23 routes that operated last summer (across the whole of S16) but were not operating this summer (across the whole of S17). These are summarised in the following table, grouped by base/focus city. Nearly half (10) of the dropped routes were found at Chicago O’Hare, and a further five at Atlanta. The former airport has lost 35 weekly frequencies, while the latter has witnessed 18 weekly services being cut this summer.

Base / focus city (Routes cut) Route (Weekly Frequency in S16)
Atlanta (5) Indianapolis (3), Memphis (3), Milwaukee (4), Pittsburgh (4), Raleigh-Durham (4)
Chicago O’Hare (10) Nashville (4), Charlotte Douglas (4), Washington Dulles (3), Kansas City (3), Minneapolis-St.Paul (4), Portland (3), Philadelphia (3), Raleigh-Durham (4), Seattle-Tacoma (4), St. Augustine (3)
Las Vegas (1) San Francisco (4)
Orlando (1) Dallas/Fort Worth (3)
Philadelphia (4) Cleveland (4), Colombus (3), Indianapolis (3), Montego Bay (3)
Phoenix* (2) San Francisco (4), Salt Lake City (3)
Source: OAG Analyser. *Phoenix is currently not a focus city.

All of these dropped routes were flown at the standard introductory frequency for Frontier routes – typically three or four weekly rotations – which is different to the twice-weekly flights that tends to be offered by the likes of Allegiant when commencing a new service. Indeed, 21 of the 30 routes that have been started by the ULCC this week haven begun operations at one of these weekly frequencies. A total of 25 airports have seen at least one Frontier route suspended this summer. Of those, 17 have lost just a single route while four airports have lost two routes. 

Some of the dropped routes are already very well served. For example, on the Las Vegas to San Francisco route this summer, Frontier would have been competing against four incumbents United Airlines (71 weekly frequencies), Virgin America (49), Southwest Airlines (42) and JetBlue Airways (14). On the Chicago O’Hare to Seattle-Tacoma route the ULCC would have faced competition from United (34 weekly frequencies), American Airlines (33), Alaska Airlines (27) and Delta Air Lines (19). 

Back in April last year, Frontier Airlines’ new three times weekly route from Atlanta to Memphis was celebrated at the Tennessee airport. 12 months later, the service is among 23 which have been dropped by the ULCC, including five from the world’s busiest airport.


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