Frontier Airlines has chosen to establish its own regional subsidiary to fly Bombardier Q400s last month rather than recruit its regional code-share partner and the only other airline to fly the type in the continental U.S., Seattle-based Horizon Air. The
Denver-based low-fare airline unveiled its plans last month as it placed an order for 10 of the 74-seat turboprops, scheduled for delivery between May and December of next year, and an option to take another 10 starting in March 2008. It plans to fly the airplanes from Denver to at least 18 Rocky Mountain communities inadequately served by mainline jets.
The move, along with Frontier’s simultaneous revelation that it plans to look for new partners to fly 20 RJs to either augment or replace the nine Bombardier CRJ700s Horizon now flies as Frontier JetExpress, has raised serious questions about the airlines’ future together. Under the terms of their 12-year contract, either Frontier or Horizon can ask for changes after the end of the third year of the partnership, which Frontier has apparently done.
“While we did approach our partners at Horizon about the Q400 operation, because they also operate Q400s, we concluded that we could drive this growth strategy more cost-effectively,” said Frontier CEO Jeff Potter.