Frontier Airlines wants to ditch jet bridges in Denver and board by stairs

Apr 7, 2022

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Prepare to get some fresh air if you’re flying Frontier Airlines out of its Denver hub starting in 2024.

The ultra-low-cost carrier wants to move from a traditional jet bridge set up at Denver International Airport’s (DEN) A Concourse to 14 ground-loading gates on the far-east side of the same concourse. Frontier will build or remodel 120,000 square feet, which will also include support space and maintenance facilities.

The proposal cleared a procedural hurdle with a Denver City Council committee on Wednesday and will be voted on by the full council later this month.

Frontier will use two doors to board its fleet of Airbus aircraft, speeding up the boarding and deplaning process. This will save the company money, the airline believes, because it will be able to schedule the planes for less time on the ground. That keeps them in the air — and earning revenue — for longer. A combination of airstairs and switchback ramps will be used, making the aircraft accessible for those with limited mobility. It also means that Frontier’s passengers will now be exposed to Denver’s sometimes harsh winter weather as they board these planes.

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The cost savings was emphasized by Frontier’s CEO, Barry Biffle, who also promised new service as a result of the expansion, on top of the 80 cities currently served out of DEN.

“A dedicated ground boarding facility will benefit customers by cutting in half the time for boarding and deplaning through the use of both the front and rear aircraft doors,” Biffle said in a statement. “That, in turn, will reduce our time on the ground between flights by nearly half and nearly double our number of aircraft operations per gate.”

Ryanair saves time and money by ground loading its planes across Europe. (Photo by Manuel Romano/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

In bringing ground-boarding gates to one of its hubs, Frontier is deploying a strategy it uses at other stations and one that Ryanair uses through its ultra-low-cost network in Europe, where it often saves money by not paying airports for the use of jetbridges. One major airport where Frontier already does this is at the South Terminal of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS), which it shares with Allegiant Air.

More: Farewell to the misery of Gate 35X, the only thing everyone in Washington could agree on

As Frontier brings ground boarding to Denver,that concept is falling out of favor in other parts of the country, perhaps most prominently in the Washington, D.C., area. Last year, American Airlines closed its infamous Gate 35X regional jet ground boarding complex at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), as it opened a new RJ concourse on the north side of the airport. Meanwhile, the operator of nearby Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) on Thursday announced that it too was proposing to build 14 new gates — ones that included jet bridges, replacing a ground-loading regional jet concourse.

Featured photo courtesy of Frontier Airlines.

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