Frontier is cutting 2 Northeast airports in a big competitive shake-up
There's a competitive shake-up underway at two of the nation's busiest Northeast airports.
Come early next year, both Newark (EWR) and Washington/Dulles (IAD) will lose service from Frontier Airlines. That's according to the airline's senior vice president of commercial, Daniel Shurz, who blamed the decision on high operating costs at these two airports.
"To that end we’re taking action on the significant increase we’re seeing in the cost per employment of certain airports," Shurz said during the company's third-quarter earnings call on Wednesday. Shurz didn't give any more specifics, but he mentioned that the airline would end its flights to Newark and Dulles in the first quarter of 2022.
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Pulling out of Washington/Dulles isn't too significant for the airline — Frontier is currently operating just one route out of IAD between its Orlando (MCO) focus city.
Meanwhile, at Newark, the move is a much bigger deal for the region — and could lead to more expensive airfares across the board. Frontier first started serving Newark in November 2019, landing just weeks after Southwest raised the white flag there.
Frontier originally launched 15 destinations from Newark — including many leisure-oriented cities like Fort Lauderdale, Punta Cana and Las Vegas — that went head-to-head against United Airlines (which operates a mega-hub there), along with JetBlue and Spirit (two of the largest low-cost carriers at the airport).
Even if you've never flown Frontier, the carrier was welcome in the market for keeping fares low. Its launch promotion included $15 fares, and the additional competition on leisure routes often drew a response from the incumbents, by lowering or matching fares.
Newark is a schedule-facilitated airport, meaning that the Federal Aviation Administration grants takeoff and landing permission (similar to a slot-controlled system) to the airlines. In September, the FAA announced that it will award 16 "slots" at Newark, which were abandoned by Southwest, to a single low-cost carrier to spur competition in the market.
With Frontier pulling out of Newark, those slots will likely either go to JetBlue or Spirit. For JetBlue, which has already been growing steadily in Newark as part of the (heavily scrutinized) Northeast Alliance with American Airlines, landing those additional takeoffs and landings would make it a formidable competitor against United.
Frontier will continue to serve Stewart (SWF), LaGuardia (LGA) and Islip (ISP) in the tri-state area, and the airline will continue to fly to Reagan National (DCA) and Baltimore (BWI) in the Washington metropolitan area, according to Cirium schedules.
Newark and Dulles are the two latest high-profile cuts for Frontier. Earlier this year, the Denver-based carrier pulled out of Los Angeles (LAX) and San Jose (SJC), and instead consolidated its operations to nearby airports.