Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Frontier switches airports. Again.

Less than two years after moving from from Bush Intercontinental to Hobby, Frontier Airlines today made the move back to the big airport:
On Wednesday, if you're driving to Hobby, rushing to make your Frontier Airlines flight, you are in a world of hurt.
That's because you'll be headed to the wrong airport. Effective July 11 and moving forward (at least until it changes its mind again) Frontier and its planes will be going in and out of gates at George Bush Intercontinental, ditching the Hobby Airport to the south.
Frontier says going back to Bush makes it the only low-cost airplane flying out of there and comes complete with a lot of better networking.
That's probably true, but it's probably only part of the story. It's very likely that Frontier, which only flies to Denver from Houston, discovered that competing head-to-head with fellow low-cost carrier Southwest on that particular route was a lot harder than it seemed: Southwest aggressively matched Frontier's fares, and Frontier couldn't make much headway into Southwest's fiercely-loyal customer base. Although it has to compete with United on a hub-to-hub route at IAH, Frontier is simply choosing the lesser of two evils, as The Cranky Flier explains:
Intercontinental, on the other hand, looks like a low cost carrier’s paradise. It’s not insanely expensive to operate there, but more importantly, as Frontier notes in the second sentence of its press release, “Frontier will be the only domestic low-cost carrier at Bush Intercontinental.” It had to say “domestic” because VivaAerobus flies to Monterrey, Mexico. For the many people who think of Intercontinental first, those who maybe live on the north side or simply think northward, Frontier now has some real opportunity to go in and make some waves without Southwest creating problems.
Especially given United's rapidly-declining reputation among Houston's flying public.

Frontier, of course, won't be the only low-cost carrier at Bush Intercontinental for long. Spirit Airlines (an airline that I will never fly) will begin serving the airport in September.

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