Fast-growing Frontier Airlines takes delivery of 100th Airbus
Despite the pandemic ravaging the aviation industry, there are still airlines in growth mode.
Frontier Airlines said on Wednesday that it took delivery of the 100th aircraft to its all-Airbus fleet. The milestone aircraft: an A320neo from Airbus' assembly line in Mobile, Alabama.
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The Denver-based carrier's milestone comes as the company is adopting a bullish approach compared to its other competitors, especially many airlines worldwide are electing to retire their aircraft. Frontier is welcoming this new jet despite planning to fly about 80% to 90% of what it planned pre-pandemic by the end of 2020.
Recent new routes announced by Frontier include new service between Miami (MIA) and Providence (PVD) that will start Dec. 17 and nonstop flights between Las Vegas (LAS) and Long Island’s MacArthur Airport (ISP) that will launch on March 18, 2021. Frontier also hoping to increase the number of flights it offers from Cincinnati (CVG) and Orlando (MCO).
Review: Flying on Frontier's A320neo from Miami to Newark
The airline has reasons to be hopeful despite the potential of the ongoing pandemic. Unlike the Big Three airlines, Frontier targets leisure flyers as its main customer base, and it's that segment of the market that has helped drive a modest rebound in passenger traffic this summer. The carrier is expecting its flights to be 70% full for June.
"We're pretty pleased with the recovery so far," Frontier CEO Barry Biffle told TPG's Edward Russell in an exclusive interview.
Still, there is concern that Frontier and other U.S. carriers may struggle to hold on to any positive momentum from the summer. Leisure travel typically decreases after Labor Day and few expect business travel to fill the void as it does in normal years. For now, Frontier has tried to entice travelers by running flash deals with fares as low as $11 for one-way flights.
More: TPG's exclusive interview with Frontier's CEO
More broadly, Biffle also believes the carrier's coronavirus strategy has helped to retain customers. From becoming the first carrier to screen flyers' temperatures to introducing enhanced cleaning procedures for its planes, Frontier tried to address concerns that flyers would have about coronavirus — messaging that Biffle believes paid off with an uptick in business.
In the meantime, the airline still has 160 more A320 jets still in order until 2027. The airline is planning to take jets more slowly than originally planned because of temporary closures of Airbus assembly lines. The carrier is hoping to take nine A320neo deliveries for this year, which is six fewer than what executives had planned last year.
As plane taken by Frontier this week, there's also a question of what animal is gracing the plane.
Frontier, of course, is known for painting animals on the tails of its plane. It's milestone jet features "Chinook the Gray Wolf," which the carrier says "was a female wolf-dog hybrid that was rescued in 1993 hours before she was to be put down because of the ‘wolf-hybrid’ label."
Frontier says Chinook died in 2007, but became the impetus for the creation of the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center. Now, she also lives on as part of Frontier's 100th aircraft.