What Would Frontier Need To Do To Make Hawaii Flights Work?

After the Paris Air show and Indigo Partners order of 50 longer-range Airbus A321XLR, we thought we would take a look and see what Frontier would need to do to make flights to Hawaii work.

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Frontier Airlines are to get 18 Airbus A321XLRs in 2024. Photo: Wikimedia

Following the order by Phoenix-based Indigo Partners, a private investment fund that manages a number of airlines, it was made clear that 18 of the new jets would go to Frontier Airlines a low-cost carrier headquartered in Denver, Colorado.

The new A321XLR will enable Frontier to fly non-stop to Hawaii

While speaking in Paris about how Frontier Airlines would operate their new Airbus A321XLR Frontier Airlines CEO Barry Biffle said that the A321XLR “Will enable Frontier to offer coast to coast service and explore exciting international and domestic opportunities, such as Hawaii…”

Frontier Ailines A319
The Airbus A321XLR will be a game-changer for Frontier Airlines. Photo: Wikimedia

Biffle also remarked that the new jets will be a game-changer when it comes to transcontinental travel too. Currently, Frontier Airlines operates an all-Airbus fleet of A320-family aircraft and have a total of just under 90 planes in their fleet.

Presently the jets are only able to fly as far Las Vegas to Philadelphia with a full-load, whereas the A321XLR would enable them to fly no stop to anywhere in the United States. This would include Hawaii and Alaska from its current hubs in Denver and Las Vegas.

The A321XLR will be a game-changer

With a range of 5,400 miles, the A321XLR would certainly be a game-changer for Frontier. It would enable them to fly to Europe and South America from their main base in the mile-high city.

Airbus A319
Frontier Airlines need to stick with their business plan. Photo: Wikimedia

While the aircraft might be capable of flying to international destinations, Frontier would be new to that market. Having seen how other low-cost carriers have fared on transatlantic routes it is unlikely that Frontier will go the same way.

Frontier needs to stick with their business model

Ultimately, I think that they will stick with their business model of offering ultra-low fares and making up revenue from all the extras like baggage, seat selection, extra legroom, drinks, and snacks. This leaves them with coast to coast flights and flights to Hawaii, where the Airbus A321XLR could be beneficial.

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Frontier’s CEO already knows that most people who live east of the Rocky Mountains head to either Florida or the Caribbean for vacations. With Denver only having a population of 716,492, flights to Hawaii would not make sense.

My prediction is that Frontier Airlines will base their new long-range aircraft in California and Phoenix, Arizona where they can fly transcontinental and Hawaiian routes.

Historically, flights to Hawaii from California have always been on the expensive side. That was until low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines entered the market with non-stop flights to Hawaii from four Californian cities: Oakland, San Diego, Sacramento, and San Jose. Southwest now offers tickets between California and Hawaii for as little as $300 round-trip.

While worried that Southwest’s low-fares will cut into their revenue, the best Hawaiian Airlines and Alaska Airlines can do is say they offer a better flying experience with more amenities.

Once Frontier Airlines takes delivery of its first A321XLRs in 2024 you can expect them to enter the fray with all guns blazing. Perhaps they will look to offer fares even lower than Southwest. If they stick to their business model and offer lower fares than the competition, the new routes to Hawaii can work.

What do you think? Please let us know in the comments.

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Matt

Denver metro has a population of almost 3 million. It’s also one of the best locations for a hub in the country. Why couldn’t they fly from Denver to Hawaii or Alaska? They have frequent direct flights to Denver from almost every major city. I actually like connections in places like Denver. It allows you to get up and walk around, use the bathroom, etc.. Flying Frontier isn’t a luxury experience, but it wasn’t that long ago that their economy experience was on par with everyone else.

Matt

Also, they wouldn’t buy A321XLRs to fly coast to coast. Even a A321LR us not necessary. Why would they buy the longer range, lower capacity version to fly the shorter distance?

Norm

Matt, In the article Frontier is also planning flights to Europe and South America, where the A321 XLR’s come in very handy. It would be interesting to evaluate the progress of the Operational Rating of this aircraft by the Airlines, as well as the flying public.

Andy Gold

I might suffer on Frontier for an hour or so as a last resort if no other options exist. For a long range flight; no way, never.

Carl

Denver’s altitude creates some operational constraints that the A321XLR would seem to overcome.

Michael Groszek

I don’t know what reserves are required, but it seems to me that the already available A321LR could do Phoenix to Honolulu. At max payload the 2 aux tank LR can do 3600 sm while the trip is 2900 sm. With ~90% payload it can do 4000 sm. I wonder why they’re waiting years for the XLR?

albez

If the XLR is too much capacity, then Airbus should develop an XLR version of the A320. There are many markets that could be served, point to point, by such an aircraft completely bypassing major airline hubs. I, for one, would gladly avoid having to may one, two, or sometimes even three hub connections if airlines could fly smaller aircraft farther.

Frank

With a seat that has only a 28in seat pitch why in the name of God would anyone want to fly from California to Hawaii on Frontier Airlines is beyond me