Frontier Could Disrupt Transatlantic Flights With Airbus A321XLR Purchase

Today at the Paris Air Show, Airbus made yet another exciting announcement regarding its new Airbus A321XLR aircraft. The company’s press release states that Indigo Partners as well as three of its airlines will be acquiring 50 of the new Airbus A321XLR long-range, single-aisle aircraft. One of those airlines is American low-cost carrier Frontier.

Frontier Airlines’ parent company Indigo Partners will acquire the new A321XLR jets. Photo: Airbus

The press release goes on to say that the Memorandum of Understanding is to include new orders for 32 A321XLRs and the conversion of 18 existing A320neo family orders. According to Wikipedia, the current Frontier fleet is an 87-strong fleet made up of various Airbus A320-family aircraft ranging from the A319 to the A321.

Regarding Frontier specifically, the U.S. carrier will take on 18 of these new long-range jets. This new aircraft has some fairly impressive capabilities which give its operators more choice and flexibility.

About the A321XLR

After months of speculation and gossip, Airbus finally made the official announcement and launched the A321XLR at this year’s Paris Air Show. The new aircraft is a variant of the A321neo and is the “longest-range single-aisle commercial jetliner ever”, according to Airbus.

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The plane is capable of flying routes up to 4,700nm with impressive fuel efficiency and a range that was previously only found in twin-aisle aircraft.

The impressive new capabilities of the A321XLR. Photo: Airbus

What this means for Frontier

At this time, Frontier flies to destinations in the U.S., Mexico, the Caribbean and Canada. While no new routes have yet been announced, it’s exciting to imagine the possibilities for this low-cost carrier.

With the acquisition of the A321XLR, Frontier will have the ability to take on transatlantic routes to the U.K. and Western continental Europe. From Frontier’s main hub in Denver, Colorado we can see that many transatlantic destinations are within reach:

The range of the Airbus A321XLR from Denver Airport. Photo: GCMaps

Could we see Frontier offering flights to Portugal, France, or Spain? Or perhaps some Scandinavian cities like Oslo, Copenhagen or Stockholm? The possibilities are wide-ranging – especially if Frontier uses a departure city closer to the East Coast.

Again, this is just speculation based on aircraft range. However, if Frontier can make a profit flying transatlantic then their CEO might just go for it:

“We’ll fly em where we can make the most money” – Barry Biffle, CEO of Frontier Airlines

The competition

If transatlantic disruption is on the agenda for Frontier, it will be entering a fairly crowded space with legacy carriers dominating routes. The big three U.S. carriers dominate this area, but there is also a strong presence from the European legacy airlines.

Furthermore, if rumors prove true and JetBlue takes on the A321XLR as well, then we will see some added competition. We already believe they will disrupt the transatlantic business class market, not to mention the already-established low-cost routes operated by Norwegian.

The current Frontier fleet consists of 87 Airbus aircraft. Photo: Flickr user Tomás Del Coro

Bare bones service

But we do have to ask the question: Would passengers want to fly a bare bones service airline like Frontier on a transatlantic route? The following TripAdvisor review is a good summary of what one might experience on a Frontier flight:

“I paid for a carry on but with that and the cost of my ticket and being charged to be able to sit with my party, I could have flown an airline that had reclining seats and beverages. It wasn’t very cheap for what I got.”

It will be interesting to see if Frontier has what it takes to attract customers and if it can keep costs low enough while offering a transatlantic flight experience that is tolerable. I personally would want a reclining seat for a seven hour flight. But that’s just me.

Have you flown Frontier before? Would you consider this airline for a lengthy transatlantic flight to somewhere in Europe?

14 comments
  1. Some interesting thoughts in here, let’s see where Frontier goes. Personally, I would avoid Frontier if they cramp their usual seats into the A321XLR. But if they put in slightly more comfortable seats allowing my 1.85 meters to move the legs just a little I wouldn’t mind if these seats don’t recline (assuming the price is right) for daytime flights.

    Let’s see in which direction they’re heading 🙂

  2. Transatlantic flights will be the test of whether the paying public will tolerate 8 or more hours cramped in cheap seats paying for drinks. The maximum I have used no frills for is 4.5 hours from Malaga Spain to Oslo Norway and it was tolerable. I am not sure I could manage anything Longer but I assume the student traveler will always go for the cheapest.

    1. I feel the same as you David. I would happily fly 4 or perhaps even 5 hours on low cost / no frills, but long haul I like my full service. But, there will almost certainly always be a portion of people who would tolerate longer no frills flights for a cheap ticket. They would need to think about feeding passengers though, and perhaps WiFi for entertainment…

  3. Ive flown frontier from Phoenix to Chicago and back and that’s 3.5 hours and it was all I could take in their extremely tight fitting seats with absolutely no recline! Don’t get me wrong, the price was amazing, but anymore than 4 hours and you might as well just pace up and down the aisle, because that would be more comfortable!

  4. I fly frontier a few times a year cause the price is right and so is the time in the air from Cleveland to Phx. If they start flying to Europe I would definitely be Interested.

    1. Great to hear… do you think they’d need to make some improvements to amenities / service to make long haul feasible?

  5. The cost would have to be very compelling for me to fly Frontier more than a few hours. Even with a significant saving, the thought of flying them makes me cringe.

    1. And if they improved their product for long haul routes? Added food and entertainment? Would you fly Frontier then?

  6. “Longest range single-aisle commercial jetliner ever.”
    Hmmm… was there no version of the 707 or DC-8 with a longer range? Wiki says 707 had up to 5,750nm range. Just trying to keep everyone honest.

    1. Thanks for that and trying to keep everyone honest! We were quoting Airbus but perhaps we’ll let them know their claim is technically inaccurate 🙂

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