As demand for travel plummets, Frontier Airlines has cancelled most of its flights in April. The Denver based low-cost carrier joins other US carriers in reducing capacity by up to 90% this month. However, Frontier Airlines remains optimistic, hoping to increase the number of flights it operates in May and June.
A report in Cleveland.com zeros in on the impact the cancellations are having at Cleveland, Ohio. Normally, Frontier Airlines flies up to 21 destinations from Cleveland. In April, it is flying to just one – Orlando. In May, the airline has tentatively listed flights from Cleveland to Orlando, Fort Myers, Tampa, and Denver.
Last year, Frontier Airlines, the fifth biggest operator at Cleveland Airport, handled 1.2 million passengers there.
US carriers have resisted the global trend
Frontier Airlines, along with other US carriers, has resisted the global trend to slash flights. Last week, the biggest airlines in the world (by seat numbers available) were US carriers. That’s dropping fast now. The apparent reluctance of US carriers to cancel flights has raised eyebrows as carriers elsewhere ground to a halt.
Until recent days, many of the US carriers, including Frontier Airlines, were selling tickets at rock-bottom prices. The airlines argued it was for forward travel over the late northern summer. But many described the practice as dumb and dangerous.
On round-trip journeys between the US east and west coasts in June, Frontier was selling tickets for USD$115. American Airlines was selling tickets for USD$177. United Airlines had tickets going for USD$187.
There are also bargain basement fares for travelers wishing to hit the skies sooner rather than later.
Two days ago, Simple Flying reported that American Airlines was selling round-trip tickets between Miami and Los Angeles for just USD$40. Dates were available in April.
Cheap fares disappear as public health crisis tighten grip on US
But these fares are disappearing off websites fast as the US government cracks down on all but the most essential travel and a public health crisis tightens its grip on the country. Trying to predict the immediate future is a fraught business, but a spokesperson for Frontier Airlines has said;
“It is the company’s belief that, if there is strong compliance with the U.S. government’s current guidance for Americans to stay at home for an additional 30 days, the airline will be in a position to gradually build flight capacity back up to as much as 35% in May and 100% in the latter half of the year.”
This may yet prove to be an overly optimistic outlook.
Relief package will help US airlines
However, Frontier Airlines has one thing working in its favor. Just days ago, the US Senate approved a bill that included a USD$58 billion relief package for US carriers. The US airline industry employs 750,000 people. The relief package would provide USD$25 billion for airlines like Frontier to pay employee salaries and benefits through to the end of September.
As Frontier Airlines slashes its flights around the US and goes into idle mode, the relief package will take some financial pressure of it. Services to cities like Cleveland may now be sparse, but it is important airlines like Frontier survive into the post-crisis era. Whether the uptick in travel happens as soon as Frontier hopes is another issue.