Frontier Airlines is now an ultra low-cost airline headquartered in Denver, Colorado, USA. The carrier, which is a subsidiary and operating brand of Indigo Partners, LLC, operates flights to 78 destinations throughout the United States, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Mexico. The airline maintains a hub at Denver International Airport with focus cities at Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport in Cleveland, Ohio, at Trenton-Mercer Airport near Trenton, New Jersey, at Washington Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C., and at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois. Also, through a code-share agreement with Great Lakes Airlines, the airline connects passengers to surrounding Rocky Mountain States.
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 jetliners. Like the original, Frontier flew out of Denver and for the first 9 years used the slogan "The Spirit of the West" which was displayed above the windows and just behind the cursive letters "Frontier" on the fuselage of their aircraft. In 1999, Frontier signed agreements to begin purchasing and leasing Airbus A318 and A319 jet aircraft to expand its fleet.
Frontier 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 Boeing 737.
As part of its plan to stay competitive in reaction to the entry of Southwest Airlines into Denver, 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.
On January 11, 2007, Frontier Airlines 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.
On January 24, 2007, Frontier was designated as a major carrier by the United States Department of Transportation.
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.
Bankruptcy and acquisition by Republic
On April 10, 2008, Frontier filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in reaction to the intent of its credit card processor, First Data, 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, the Indianapolis-based parent company of Republic Airlines, 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 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, and Scheduling & Planning teams after extending its lease on the building through 2020.
In 2010, Frontier's past CEO Bryan Bedford took part in the TV show Undercover Boss.
Merger with Midwest Airlines
As Republic Airways Holdings was in the 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 the Spring of 2010, Frontier and Midwest Airlines announced that their brands would merge, with Frontier being the surviving brand. This was a merger of brands only—no Midwest Airlines aircraft was ever operated by Frontier, as by this time, all Midwest Airlines flights were operated on its behalf by other Republic Airways Holdings subsidiaries.
On April 13, 2011, Frontier formed 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.
Closing Milwaukee Hub
After merging with Midwest Airlines, Frontier cut 11 out of its 18 flights leaving a total of just 7 from MKE to Denver, Orlando, Rhinelander and Washington-National. At its peak, Frontier operated around 50-80 flights from Milwaukee daily.
On September 9, 2011, Frontier notified the public of a 40% reduction of arriving and departing flights from MKE. Along with this reduction of flights, the company laid off approximately 140 employees from the MKE station. This includes but is not limited to: maintenance, grooming services, flight-line and gate.
In February 2012, Frontier Airlines cut five nonstop routes from Milwaukee. This move "reduced Frontier's daily departing flights out of Mitchell International from 32 to 18," or 56%. Frontier announced further layoffs in conjunction with this route change: up to 446 Milwaukee-area employees were affected by the job cuts that occurred between April 15 and April 30, 2012.
Republic Airways spinoff of Frontier
In an effort to focus on regional contract flights for major carriers, Republic Airways Holdings announced in January 2012 its intention to sell or spin off Frontier. On January 26, 2012, Republic Airways Holdings appointed former US Airways and Gate Gourmet CEO David Siegel as President and CEO of Frontier Airlines. Republic also added new senior officers for Frontier’s finance and commercial team, among other changes in the executive leadership team. Siegel and other Frontier executives moved to Denver where Frontier is now headquartered in order to facilitate management of all aspects of Frontier during its separation process from Republic and continue its transformation into an ultra-low-cost carrier.
Opening Trenton and Wilmington bases
In November 2012, Frontier started low-frequency service between Orlando International Airport and Trenton-Mercer Airport near Trenton, New Jersey, which, at the time, had no commercial service. Frontier later expanded service several times from Trenton, and as of June 2014 services 17 destinations. Frontier currently bases three aircraft in Trenton. Trenton Mercer Airport lies roughly equidistant between Philadelphia International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport.
In July 2013, Frontier started service from New Castle Airport near Wilmington, Delaware to five destinations, which Frontier markets as Wilmington/Philadelphia. Again, this airport had no commercial service prior to Frontier's entry. New Castle Airport lies roughly 30 miles southwest of Philadelphia International Airport and 75 miles northeast of Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
Frontier markets both Trenton-Mercer and Wilmington-Philadelphia airports as low-cost, low-hassle alternatives to the existing nearby commercial airports. Frontier remains the only commercial carrier at these two airports.
In June 2014, Frontier Airlines opened a crew base for flight attendants at Trenton-Mercer Airport.
As of January 2015, Frontier Airlines has since cut several flights from Wilmington and Trenton. It also resumed service to Philadelphia, casting doubt on the airline's existing bases.
Acquisition by Indigo Partners
In October 2013, Republic Airways Holdings entered into an agreement with private equity firm Indigo Partners to sell Frontier Airlines for approximately $145 million. According to Indigo, the transaction would further Frontier’s evolution into an ultra-low-cost carrier. In December 2013, Indigo Partners LLC, through an affiliate, completed the purchase of the Frontier Airlines from Republic Airways Holdings. The airline's headquarters will remain in Denver. Republic Airways Holdings subsidiary Republic Airlines no longer flies Embraer 190 aircraft on behalf of Frontier, as of January 1, 2014.
In January 2015, Frontier announced it would be transitioning into an ultra-low cost carrier. It also stated it would possibly be interested in merging with another airline. Frontier will also cut several flights and jobs at their Denver hub and consolidate them in newer markets.
Former Regional Carriers
Main article: Chautauqua Airlines
Frontier Express Embraer ERJ-145 operated by Chautauqua
Chautauqua Airlines operated up to 12 Embraer 135 and 145 jets out of Milwaukee. Frontier began branding these flights as Frontier Express in the spring of 2011. With the pull-down of the Milwaukee hub, the only route that continued to operate with a Frontier Express ERJ-145 jet was Milwaukee to Rhinelander. However, Frontier service to Rhinelander ended on January 3, 2013, and Chautauqua is transferring the remaining aircraft to other partners.
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 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 ended their partnership. 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.
Denver International Airport's Pedestrian Bridge, with many Frontier and Lynx Aviation aircraft in the foreground
Main article: Lynx Aviation (United States)
On September 6, 2006, Frontier created a new division of the holding company, known as Lynx Aviation, to operate Bombardier Q400 aircraft beginning in May 2007. On December 5, 2007, Lynx Aviation received its operating certificate from the FAA. Lynx began passenger operations on the morning of December 6, 2007.
After commencing operations, Lynx added service to 12 regional destinations: Albuquerque, Aspen, Billings, Bozeman, Colorado Springs, Durango, Fargo, Jackson Hole (Seasonal), Oklahoma City, Rapid City, Tulsa, and Wichita. Two additional cities, Omaha and Salt Lake City, were served by Lynx Aviation along with Frontier Airlines mainline service.
In 2012, the Lynx Aviation operation was folded into Republic Airways Holdings subsidiary Republic Airlines. The remaining Q400 aircraft were withdrawn from Frontier service and placed in service for United Airlines.