A budget airline just cut 16 flights (including popular ones)

At a time of industry-wide understaffing and consistent problems hiring the air crew staff necessary to fix them, airlines have to prioritize flights that are popular with the largest number of travelers. As with any business, those that end up flying half-empty for long periods of time end up getting cut in favor of other routes.

Earlier this month, low-cost airline Frontier Airlines  (FRON)  launched a spate of flights going in and out of Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) due to growing demand among customers who would previously often end up driving to Newark. 

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But not long after committing to 10 new routes from Philadelphia and seven from other cities in the U.S., the Denver-based airline announced 16 cuts. Some of the flights Frontier will no longer run include routes from Atlanta to San Antonio and Salt Lake City, from Las Vegas to Indianapolis, Charlotte, Sacramento and Tampa, and from Orlando to Columbus, Harrisburg, New Orleans and Pittsburgh.

Most of the Frontier cuts affect routes going in and out of Orlando International Airport.


Airline cuts flights, blames ‘disproportionate growth’ of given markets

“One of the largest challenges many low-cost and ultra-low-cost carriers faced in 2023 was the industry’s oversupply of capacity in leisure markets, with Las Vegas and Orlando being two significant examples,” Frontier CEO Barry Biffle told investors during a Feb. 6 earnings call. “Both markets have experienced rapid and disproportionate growth compared to 2019, when demand and capacity were far more balanced.”

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Three international routes, including one between Orlando and Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, one to Jamaica’s Montego Bay from Tampa and one from Denver to Mexico’s San José Del Cabo, were among those cut.

‘Cutting what we believe is marginal, unprofitable flying…’

In general, Frontier has been moving away from routes to tropical and traditional “vacation destinations” like Las Vegas and toward “functional” routes between regional cities often overlooked by both mainstream and other low-cost airlines. The new Philadelphia flights that it will start running in May 2024 include routes to Tennessee’s Knoxville, Ohio’s Columbus, Maine’s Portland and Florida’s Pensacola.

The airline called these network changes a prioritization of “higher-fare, visiting-friends-and-relatives markets” — as travelers often do not have as many routes to their specific regional city to choose from, they are more willing to pay higher fees for a direct flight.

Other new routes that Frontier plans to start running later this spring include flights from Atlanta to Michigan’s Grand Rapids and Virginia’s Norfolk as well as new flights from El Paso in Texas to San Diego and Ontario International Airport outside Los Angeles favored by those who live in certain suburbs outside the city.

Frontier will continue to run a number of routes to Las Vegas and Orlando from several different cities but those who enjoyed direct flights from their regional city may have to either drive to or do a transfer in a larger city that sees greater traffic among Frontier customers — depending on where they are, this could be Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta or Houston.

“We’re not retreating from our network footprint in either market,” Biffle said. “We’re merely cutting what we believe is marginal, unprofitable flying.”

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