Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Frontier Airlines to return to Philadelphia

Frontier Airlines - with new owners, a new management team, and a new logo on its planes - is coming to Philadelphia with flights to seven cities.

Denver's hometown airline will announce Tuesday nonstop flights from Philadelphia International Airport to Miami, Orlando, and Tampa, Fla., and Cancun, Mexico, in December, and to Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., and Chicago next spring.

"These are underserved markets with very high fares," Frontier chief executive officer David Siegel said. "We're going to expand the market, stimulating it with low fares and dropping in a little bit of capacity."

Frontier hasn't flown scheduled service from Philadelphia since January 2013, soon after it began flights from Trenton-Mercer Airport.

To entice travelers, Frontier will offer a one-day sale Tuesday through 11:59 p.m. starting at $14.99 one-way for travel Jan. 6, 7, 13, and 14 to Miami, Tampa, and Orlando. The $14.99 fare is not valid for Cancun.

Introductory fares of $59 to $99 one-way will be available through Oct. 6 at FlyFrontier.com. for certain flights between Jan. 5 and April 29 to Miami, Tampa, Orlando, and Cancun. Seats will be limited at these fares, and blackout dates will apply.

The schedule for Atlanta, Charlotte, and Chicago will be announced in the coming weeks.

Four of the cities where Frontier plans to fly are hubs for American Airlines and merger partner US Airways: Philadelphia, Charlotte, Miami, and Chicago.

"Many people get priced out of the market with higher fares," Frontier president Barry Biffle said. "We believe there are people who want a low fare and great service, and we can fill that void."

James Tyrrell, Philadelphia deputy director of aviation, said the flights are "good news" for passengers: "We love increased air service, especially to very competitive destinations."

When a low-fare airline enters a market, ticket prices drop. "Our costs will be 30 percent to 40 percent lower than American, so you would expect to see our fares that much lower," Biffle said.

"In Denver, our biggest market, on average our fares are 20 percent lower than Southwest and 60 percent lower than United," Siegel said.

Last fall, Frontier was acquired by Indigo Partners of Phoenix, whose founder, William Franke, had been chairman of Spirit Airlines.

Indigo is remaking Frontier as an ultra-low-cost airline, modeled after Spirit, which offers low base fares but charges extra for everything, including carry-on bags. Frontier is adopting some of Spirit's "cost elements," including putting more seats on planes to fit in more passengers.

"Even with the fees, their fares are sometimes 50 percent lower than other airlines," said George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog.com.

Frontier aims to have better customer service, friendlier employees, and better on-time performance - getting passengers and their bags to destinations on schedule, Siegel said.

The airline recently announced a new paint job for its planes. The colorful animals that have adorned the tails will be getting bigger on future aircraft.

Employees and customers told Frontier executives they wanted the popular grizzly bear, rabbit, lynx, and cougar to stay. The green company logo and website URL on the aircraft are meant to "update and refresh" the brand, Siegel said.

Frontier has expanded rapidly, and beginning Nov. 20, the airline will fly to its 19th nonstop destination - Nassau, Bahamas - from Trenton-Mercer Airport in Ewing Township.

"We have no plans to change our Trenton strategy," Biffle said. "You have the No. 1 metro area in the United States to the north - New York - and a top-five metropolitan area to the south - Philadelphia - and a lot of people who live in between."

Siegel said, "There's very little overlap between those markets."

Frontier operates flights at New Castle Airport near Wilmington, but some Delaware service has been cut.

Frontier currently flies from Philadelphia for Apple Vacations.

Frontier will expand the Cancun service Dec. 21 to five days a week. It will continue to fly to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, for Apple Vacations twice a week.

On Dec. 20, Frontier will begin nonstop service to Miami and Orlando twice a day and to Tampa once a day from Philadelphia.
Story and Comments:  http://www.philly.com


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