Frontier has expanded its international service rapidly this year, the start of things to come. According to Barry Biffle, the ULCC’s CEO, international will grow from 5% to 15-20% of its total operation in the next three to five years, according to his interview at Routes World this week.
Frontier has approximately 156,000 domestic and international flights this year, according to the latest Cirium data. It has 10% more than last year and 13% more than in pre-pandemic 2019. While that’s eye-opening enough, international development has been even starker.
This year, the ULCC has 7,300 international flights, the most ever. It has risen by 79% over last year and a whopping 186% versus 2019, helped by COVID-related rules disappearing from many nations and prioritizing international growth.
With its focus inevitably on leisure and visiting friends and relatives markets in Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America, Cirium shows that it has introduced more than 20 international routes this year.
Source of data: Cirium.
From 5% to 15-20%
Despite the significant expansion, international flights represent just 5% of its total. Although that’s low in itself, it was up from its previous high of 3.2% in 2014. And it’s certainly going to keep growing. As Biffle said:
“Pre-pandemic, we’ve been 2-5% international. In the next three to five years, we’ll grow it to 15-20%… we’ll finally see international unleashed.”
Photo: James Pearson – Simple Flying.
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This year, Frontier has had international service from a whopping 26 US airports. They include very time-limited operations Providence and Raleigh Durham to Cancún and the leftover of its non-US network (Cancún, Montego Bay, and Nassau) from Newark in January.
Bringing it right up to date, if November-December is now examined, Frontier has international flights from 15 US airports, with Atlanta, Orlando, Chicago O’Hare, Philadelphia, and Denver completing the top five.
It has 38 routes in the last two months of the year involving seven nations. Mexico is predictably essential – six in ten Frontier flights are to it – followed by the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, and the Bahamas. Biffle said:
“We’re going to grow near international a lot more. We’ve invested considerably into Jamaica, Cancún, and all over the Caribbean. We’ve just recently announced Denver to Montego Bay, for example.”
Photo: Frontier Airlines.
Benefiting from tie-ups
Biffle commented that Frontier would benefit meaningfully from the potential Spirit-JetBlue tie-up, with Spirit and JetBlue collectively around 10x bigger internationally than Frontier. As Biffle put it:
“It’s an interesting commercial experiment, right? You take a brand [Spirit] and raise its cost and prices to keep similar margins. They’ll price out their existing customers… they’ll have to replace those passengers with new customers [including internationally]. We’ll be the largest beneficiary of the merger… we will target those passengers.”
Photo: Frontier Airlines.
What about the XLR?
Naturally, Biffle commented on the incoming A321XLRs:
“In 2026, we’ll get the XLR, which will enable us to fly to Europe, Hawaii [obviously not international], and deeper in South America [the first time it’ll serve the continent].”
He said the XLR to Europe is “of interest” and “an opportunity we’re certainly considering.” However, I’d take that with a big pinch of salt until the deliveries draw closer.
Where would you like Frontier to grow internationally? Let us know in the comments.