A new crew base could mean as many as 340 pilots and flight attendants within the first year at Frontier’s operations in Terminal E at DFW Airport, along with more flights.
Frontier is planning daily service from DFW to New York City’s LaGuardia Airport in April and to John Wayne Airport in California’s Orange County in May. There will also be three to four flights each week to Baltimore, Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and Montego Bay, Jamaica, starting in May.
“We’ve got a lot of airplanes coming up,” said Frontier Airlines CEO Barry Biffle in an interview with The Dallas Morning News. “We’re gonna double our size over the next four or five years and so we’re looking for homes and we look for places that are overpriced or underserved or both.”
With the new routes, Frontier will have flights to 19 destinations from DFW.
Denver-based Frontier has already ramped up flying significantly in recent years and has been aggressive in adding flights since air traffic has come back during the COVID-19 travel recovery. In October 2018, the airline flew just over two daily flights out of DFW. Last month, Frontier had an average of 15 flights a day and flew to 14 destinations.
Biffle said he sees an opportunity at DFW, even though it is the primary hub for Fort Worth-based American Airlines and just a few miles away from the hometown airport for Dallas-based Southwest Airlines.
“The reality is that that, yes, your fares are higher than in other places and there’s a lot of people here so there’s a lot opportunity to stimulate demand and get more Texas routes,” Biffle said. “And bringing more people here to help you know your conventions and everything else.”
While DFW has more destinations than any other airport in the country, thanks mostly to American’s presence, it does have higher airfares than other airports.
The average domestic airfare out of DFW in the second quarter was $412, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. The average at Dallas Love Field, Southwest’s home, was $346 and the national average was $398. At Denver International Airport, where Frontier is based, the average domestic airfare was $361.
Those higher prices are an opportunity that ultra-low-cost carriers think they can pounce on at DFW as more leisure travelers take seats on jets and look for cheaper airfares.
Frontier is in the category of ultra-low-cost carriers that offer lower base fares, but it also charges extra for changing flights, carry-on bags, seat assignments and in-flight food. Frontier said those fees help lower the price of base tickets.
DFW will be the 11th crew base for Frontier and the first in Texas.
Biffle, who grew up in Gainesville near the Oklahoma border and worked for American’s regional affiliate American Eagle, said there is high interest from Frontier pilots and flight attendants who want to live in Dallas-Fort Worth.
“It’s good for a lot of our existing crew; we have a lot of Texans today that would like to be based here,” Biffle said. “ I think it also is a great place for recruiting because there’s a lot here.”
Frontier has been growing its crew bases in the last two years, adding Tampa and Atlanta in 2021 and Phoenix earlier this year.
Much of the DFW growth that Frontier is planning is based on an aggressive aircraft purchase plan that will see the airline more than double its fleet of jets by 2029 with the order of 226 new Airbus A321Neo jets.
And if a pending merger between Spirit and JetBlue passes antitrust clearance next year, Frontier could be left as the dominant ultra-low-cost carrier in the U.S. JetBlue leaders have said they plan to transition Spirit into the JetBlue model.
Spirit is the second largest carrier at DFW International Airport, with more than 50 daily flights after ramping up this summer.
“So that will leave a lot of this country with not as many options,” Biffle said. “We see a huge opportunity for growth.”