Frontier bails on Newark, blames high operating costs

No more Newark for Frontier, as the carrier will leave the NJ airport in Q1 2022
No more Newark for Frontier, as the carrier will leave the NJ airport in Q1 2022

Frontier Airlines is pulling out of Newark. Just two years after it arrived, hot on the heels of Southwest’s withdrawal, the ultra low cost carrier says the economics of continuing operations in Newark no longer make sense. Washington-Dulles will also lose service as part of the company’s shift.

Speaking on the company’s Q3 ’21 earnings call this week SVP Commercial Daniel Shurz explained the move:

We are relentless in eradicating waste and eliminating things we don’t get paid for such as excessive airport costs. To that end we’re taking action on the significant increase we’re seeing in the cost per employment of certain airports.

Following our decision to exit LAX and San Jose, California earlier this year, in the first quarter of 2022 we will be ending service to Washington-Dulles and Newark. As with any airport if the fare and cost relationship improves we will revisit the decision.

Frontier‘s arrival in Newark in late 2019 was seen as something of a rebuff of Southwest’s departure. It joined Spirit Airlines and JetBlue in their efforts to break United Airlines‘ dominance in the market. And while JetBlue (now up to 39 destinations) and Spirit (currently 13, and actively fighting for more slots) continue to pursue opportunities at Newark, Frontier chose to walk away.

Frontier’s routes at Newark, including the routes still operating from the initial 15 announced (green), routes terminated (red), and extra new destinations (purple)Map generated by the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

The original 15 markets launched included a mix of major US cities, as well as Caribbean markets for leisure and VFR passengers. Frontier has not been shy about its efforts to grow in the Caribbean and Newark added two more Caribbean markets since the initial announcement.

And, while Frontier does not shy away from calling out what it sees as onerous airport costs, its operations are also somewhat to blame. The carrier does not have the necessary communications hardware on board to operate longer overwater flights. Instead, it must hug the east coast for its trips from Newark to Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic. That adds travel time, as well as fuel and crew costs to the math around making the routes work.

Frontier’s withdrawal is good news for United, as well as for JetBlue and Spirit. With 16 additional slots up for grabs, one of the two should be able to more firmly entrench its operations.

JetBlue’s growth at Newark – with 18 of its 39 markets in the Caribbean – is also supported by its Northeast Alliance partnership with American Airlines. That deal faces recently renewed opposition from US regulators, though the airlines are confident they can win the legal challenge.

Frontier’s withdrawal from Dulles is far less significant. The carrier only serves Dulles-Orlando on the current schedule.

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