Frontier looks for jump start

Washington DC
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Management at Frontier Airlines are eager to quickly snap back into growth mode after trimming its operations during the 16 months it spent in Chapter 11 restructuring. It emerges as a sister carrier to Midwest Airlines, and part of Frontier's expansion is tied to leveraging the strength of both carriers' networks.

Frontier chief Sean Menke has now transitioned to the executive team of the carrier's new owner Republic Airways Holdings, and has responsibility for strategy, sales and marketing and customer experience for both carriers.

Menke says the Republic team is now "knee deep" into the 2010 business plan after Frontier's official emergence from restructuring this quarter. Currently a large portion of time is dedicated to aligning policies and procedures of the two branded carriers.

menke 200 (frontier) 
But an examination of aircraft allocation under the new holding company structure is also underway. Some reallocation has started as five of Frontier's Airbus A319s start operating from Milwaukee this month. In early 2010 five Embraer E-190s will also be placed on flights from Denver.

Also under analysis is the Lynx operation launched by Frontier in December 2007.This is being conducted in light of the new holding structure, which could have extra 70-seat aircraft. With just 11 Bombardier Q400 turboprops in service, Menke says the fleet size is suboptimal. But he compliments the aircraft's performance and the contribution it makes to Frontier's network.

It is too early to determine if some of Frontier's product offerings such as the carrier's AirFairs tiered fare scheme can transition to Midwest, Menke explains. But oneproductstudy underway in the near term for both Frontier andMidwest is connectivity, which is rapidly being adopted by several US carriers.

Frontier is also reconnecting some point-to-point markets it abandoned during Chapter 11 as it sold aircraft to raise cash. New services include flights from Indianapolis and St Louis to Cancun, and seasonal service from Oklahoma City to Florida with E-190s. Menke explains Frontier is also evaluating new service from other cities in the US Midwest.

Menke is grateful to resume planning for strategic growth now Frontier's restructuring is complete. But he cites the strides Frontier's management and staff made during their restructuring. For the June quarter Frontier posted an operating margin that was just over 10%, and Menke expects an even higher margin for the third quarter.

Menke credits Frontier's employees with those results, saying the staff "rallied around what needed to take place" during the Chapter 11 process. Seabury Group acted as Frontier's advisor during that time and its company managing director Michael Cox calls Menke "way too modest" in terms of ensuring employee support. Unlike restructurings at larger carriers where mistrust ensues, Cox says Frontier's senior management carried a lot of credibility with the employees as Menke "shot completely straight and open".

Click here to read about Bryan Bedford's ambitions for Republic in our recent cover interview