While everyone agrees that the covid-19 pandemic has been beyond catastrophic for the airline industry, it has also given low-cost carriers the opportunity to grow their route systems to entice leisure travelers to try new services. Airlines such as Allegiant, Frontier, JetBlue and Twin Cities-based Sun Country are all in the process of adding new routes that are pretty much non-competitive. Additionally, new airlines have popped up, most notably Avelo and Breeze, both of which offer primarily point-to-point service from secondary airports that allow travelers to bypass the mega-airline hubs.
A prime example of low-cost airlines quickly growing as the airline industry recovers from the pandemic is the recently announced major expansion by Denver-based Frontier Airlines. A small airline by most standards with ‘only’ 110 aircraft in its fleet (by comparison, Delta’s fleet has nearly 900 aircraft), Frontier (F9) is adding 20 new nonstop routes, with Orlando as the central focus of 17 of them.
Secondary airports are central to Frontier’s strategy, as is offering just two or four weekly flights on each route, rather than multiple frequencies on a daily basis as the major carriers do. American, United, Delta, and to a lesser extent Southwest feed themselves via massive hubs in places like Atlanta, Chicago (O’Hare and Midway), Dallas-Ft. Worth, Baltimore-Washington, Detroit, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Charlotte.
As part of Frontier’s Orlando destination expansion, here are some unique Midwest routes that the airline has announced:
- Sioux Falls, South Dakota (FSD) – twice weekly starting November 1
- Cedar Rapids, Iowa (CID) – twice weekly starting November 4
- Fargo, North Dakota (FAR) – twice weekly starting November 4
Other non-traditional airports receiving new Orlando nonstops this fall and winter include Stewart Airport (SWF) in New York City’s northern suburbs with four weekly flights; Bentonville (XNA), Arkansas with two weekly flights; and El Paso (ELP), Texas with two weekly flights.
Frontier at the same time announced new international routes to Antigua and Barbuda (ANU); Liberia, Costa Rica (LIR); Belize City (BEZ); and the Turks and Caicos Islands (PLS).
While it remains to be seen which routes will stick and which may only operate for a limited period of time, it is an exciting time for the traveling public in second-tier cities who will finally have an opportunity to show that they deserve nonstop service to some major destinations.
Frontier utilizes Terminal 2 (Humphrey) at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP). Current nonstop destinations include Denver (DEN), Orlando (MCO) and Tampa (TPA).