Frontier Airlines To Pull Out Of Washington Dulles And Newark

Ultra-low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines has announced it will be exiting two more major airports. In the first quarter of 2022, it will be ending its flights to Washington D.C.’s Dulles International Airport (IAD) and Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR). Speaking on the carrier’s third-quarter earnings call, Daniel Shurz, Senior Vice President of Commercial at Frontier Airlines, cited high airport costs as the reason for the exit.

Frontier AIrbus A320
Frontier Airlines will be pulling out of Newark and Dulles early next year. Photo: Getty Images

Frontier Airlines ending Newark and Dulles flights

Speaking on the airline’s third-quarter earnings call, Mr. Shurz described the airline’s cessation of flights to these airports as a move designed around cost:

“We’re taking action on the significant increase we’re seeing in the cost pressures at airports. Following our decision to exit LAX and San Jose, California earlier this year, in the first quarter of 2022, we will be ending service to Washington-Dulles and Newark. As with any airport, if the fare and cost relationship improves, we will revisit the decision.”

Frontier has not given an official end date to flights at Newark. Flights to Washington-Dulles are no longer available after January 4th. The first quarter covers January through March. In either case, Frontier will be ceasing services at both airports before the start of the busy summer season.

Frontier Airlines To Pull Out Of Washington Dulles And Newark
Frontier has been carefully watching airport costs and making changes as it deems it necessary. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

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Frontier’s operations at both airports

Next month, Frontier Airlines only has one route scheduled out of IAD, according to data from Cirium. The airline has scheduled two weekly flights to Orlando International Airport (MCO) before upping it to three weekly flights around the December holiday season before ending flights in early January.

Newark is a different story. The airline has an extensive base of operations there. A rarity in the Frontier network, half of the destinations will see daily services. In December, from EWR, Frontier has flights scheduled to ten destinations:

Frontier Airlines To Pull Out Of Washington Dulles And Newark
Frontier’s routes out of Newark. Photo: Cirium

Newark was previously set to become the carrier’s gateway for New York City. However, the airport is undergoing a major redevelopment. These projects can come at a high cost that sometimes is passed onto airlines. Frontier relies on lower operating costs at airports to offer its low fares. With costs per enplanement rising at some of these largest airports, Frontier has opted to move its flying elsewhere.

Where does Frontier go from here?

Frontier Airlines is not writing those airports off entirely. It has left open the opportunity to return to airports if the cost structure there comes down. Mr. Shurz reassured that the airline had plenty of different opportunities:

“We have so many growth opportunities, as we said multiple times this year. We have lots of places to put our aircraft and so we’re finding more cost-effective places in the short term. And look, a number of the airports we’ve made decisions on are in multi-airport cities and there are much more cost effective airports for us to fly from in those cities in those metro regions. And if that’s if that’s ultimately what we have to do for the long term, we’ll do it for the long term.”

Los Angeles Exteriors And Landmarks - 2020
Frontier Airlines believes it has enough room to grow to make up for the cessation of flights out of Newark and Dulles. Photo: Getty Images

One example is LAX. After pulling out there, the airline moved its operations to Burbank (BUR) and Ontario (ONT). Washington-Dulles has both Baltimore (BWI) and Reagan National (DCA), though it is much larger at BWI and is more likely to get the space to grow its operations there rather than DCA to make up for the small loss at IAD if it chooses to do so.

New York is a tougher market. Frontier has a presence at Stewart (SWF), Islip (ISP), and LaGuardia (LGA). The latter is quite operationally full, so Frontier likely has a better opportunity to move flying to SWF or ISP, though it already hits the major leisure markets from there. However, neither of those airports are easy to get to from most of New York City. Still, there are already many competitors for those travelers that Frontier may decide what it offers at LaGuardia is enough and turn to new travelers at SWF and ISP. They may otherwise face a dearth of nonstop options.

It will be interesting to see if there are any other airports that Frontier decides to exit or revamp amid increasing costs. But, as the airline has shown, it is no stranger to operating into smaller, cheaper airports and making them work in the network. The question now will be if those airports can work in the long run.