Watch Out, Spirit – New Cheapskate Competition from Frontier

Earlier this summer, FareCompare took note of buyers sniffing around Frontier. Now, the airline’s parent, Republic Airways Holdings, has announced the sale of the Denver-based carrier.

Spirit’s sexy (disgusting?) ads

Frontier’s Spirit Connection

As USA Today reports, the new owner is “an affiliate of the private-equity firm Indigo Partners, a key early investor in ultra-low-cost carrier Spirit.” Investors love how Spirit makes money. Frontier fans may find less to love – or will they?

A Spirit Clone?

The intentions of the new owners seems clear: They want to turn Frontier into the same kind of ultra low-cost carrier that Spirit exemplifies so well. It won’t be hard; Frontier has been heading down this path for some time now, charging for soft drinks on flights plus it recently added a carry-on bag fee for some flyers – just like Spirit (and Allegiant, too). It wouldn’t surprise FareCompare if all Frontier flyers start paying carry-on fees as well as more fees in the future. There could be changes in store for crews too: Spirit flight attendants earn commissions by pushing perks-for-pay during flights, and who knows? Frontier flight attendants may join them.

Spirit sells wine – but not in a bottle!

Changes Coming to Denver?

Another change: There is talk that the Denver-centric airline may move away from its Colorado roots and diversify its route system, possibly to take better advantage of all those passengers in the northeastern part of the U.S.

But the most important aspect of Spirit that Frontier hopes to mimic is the key to ultra low-cost carriers: making money. And despite some detractors, Spirit has proven to be very good at that.

Love-Hate Relation with Ultra Cheap Airlines

Spirit’s fans are legion and devoted; they love the airline’s sometimes incredibly low fares and don’t mind extreme no-frills flights. Spirit’s detractors are also legion; they hate being nickel-and-dimed and claim (with some justification) that paying the fees negates the value of the cheap fares. It will be interesting to see if Frontier becomes a similar lightning rod for criticism – and love – as it stakes its claim in the land of ultra-cheap airlines.

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Published: October 3, 2013