Frontier Airlines is accelerating the retirements of its older and smaller Airbus A319s. Initially scheduled to depart the fleet by the end of 2021, Frontier will remove those aircraft early in favor of the Airbus A320neo aircraft. The final Airbus A319 will now depart a few months early, in the third quarter of 2021.
Frontier Airlines accelerates Airbus A319 retirements
On the airline’s first-quarter earnings call, Frontier Airlines Chief Financial Officer, James Dempsey, stated the following:
“In early May, we executed a contract with one of our lessors to accelerate the return of four remaining A319 aircraft from the company’s fleet. Three of the A319 aircraft will exit Frontier’s please during the second quarter of 2021, and the fourth aircraft will exit the fleet in the third quarter of 2021. This is the completion of an early objective of the transformation of Frontier into an ultra-low-cost carrier by replacing all A319 aircraft with larger and more fuel efficient A320 and A321 aircraft.”
Previously, Frontier Airlines had planned to retire all four in December of 2021. Over the last few years, as Frontier transitioned to an ultra-low-cost carrier, it sought to use higher gauge aircraft that lowered the carrier’s costs. As a result, the Airbus A319 fleet started to make its exit.
Frontier’s Airbus A319s
Frontier Airlines only has four Airbus A319ceos in its fleet. Since 2013, these planes have been exiting the carrier’s fleet. In fact, the final four aircraft received a retirement plan in 2018. In December of 2018, Frontier completed a sale-and-leaseback agreement on these four jets, with retirement dates scheduled in December 2021.
Over the years, Frontier has sought to increase the density of its aircraft. On the Airbus A319ceos, this meant going from 138 seats to 150 seats. These planes are currently the smallest jets in terms of passenger capacity in the airline’s fleet. In the past, the airline has flown smaller jets, including the Airbus A318.
No impact on the route network
When asked on the earnings call about whether A319 retirements would preclude the airline’s ability to fly into smaller markets, Senior Vice President – Commercial, Daniel Shurz stated the following:
“As we go to a lot higher gauge, we get lower costs, and we already have a strategy of applying the right frequency to the right market… We fly our smaller markets, in general, today on the A320neo which is the bulk of our fleet today – the majority of our fleet today, and we found that works. We fly some small markets at low frequency on the A321 and find that works. We have the lowest cost, we are going to be a low cost leader, and that enables us to fly as many markets as we can, and I think that’s the right strategy to maximize our opportunity.”
The Airbus A320neo will provide Frontier Airlines a cost-savings. So, the carrier can charge lower fares to fill up the incremental capacity the Airbus A320neo offers without needing to sell tickets well below cost.
In general, ultra-low-cost carriers are moving away from small, A319-sized aircraft. Spirit Airlines has retained its Airbus A319s – for now – while Allegiant focuses its growth around the Airbus A320. On the Boeing side, airlines like Sun Country are focusing on the Boeing 737-800s. The Airbus A320 and Boeing 737-800s can, at the high side, seat around 180 passengers in a dense, single-class layout. Moreover, there are even greater prospects with the 737 MAX.
As a larger and newer aircraft, Frontier will realize cost savings on the Airbus A320neo that it will, hopefully, be able to pass off to consumers with low, unbundled fares.
Will you miss Frontier’s Airbus A319s? Let us know in the comments!