The headline in this morning's Denver Post is unequivocal: "Republic Airways to Move Frontier's Headquarters Out of Denver." But Peter Kowalchuk, Frontier's spokesman, believes the announced resignation of former Frontier CEO Sean Menke, and the relocation of other top-level execs to Republic's home base, Indianapolis, just over a month after the announcement of 140 Denver-based jobs flying the coop doesn't establish so clear a break.
"If people think the presence of a dozen or so senior executives in a building in Indianapolis makes Frontier an Indianapolis airline rather than a Denver or Colorado airline, that's what they'll think," Kowalchuk says. "But that's not the case. Frontier has been Denver's hometown airline for fifteen years, and we will continue to be Denver's hometown airline."
Frontier will retain "a significant presence in Denver," Kowalchuk stresses. "That presence will include our Denver hub operation at the airport and the presence of our flight crews, which consist of pilots and flight attendants. There'll also be training here and line mechanics at the airport, as well as some sort of HR presence and IT presence. Denver will remain Republic's largest employment center by a significant amount. We have 350-plus flights in and out a day -- and Denver will see growth because of Republic's acquisition."
For example, Kowalchuk notes that Frontier has ordered ten more aircraft to be delivered this year, "and that will allow us to increase our flights in and out of Denver."
When he's asked if Frontier plans an advertising campaign intended to emphasize its Denver connections, Kowalchuk notes that "we have a significant research project underway. More than 25,000 research surveys have gone out to our customers nationwide to find out what their perceptions are of the company and our sister company in Republic's operations, Midwest Airlines. We will be making decisions about the future of the company, the brand and its operations when we get those surveys back -- deciding how we promote the company and the brand nationwide."
In the meantime, Frontier is engaged in a fare war with Southwest Airlines, Republic's main competition for purchase of the carrier last year. But that's nothing new, according to Kowalchuk.
"I think it's recognized in the industry that Denver is the most competitive airline market in the U.S., and I don't see that having let up since the acquisition [by Republic]. Both carriers we compete with very intensely at DIA, United and Southwest, are making moves to keep prices down and to try to acquire clients."
As for Frontier, he says, "Our concern is running a competitive airline, but also a profitable airline. And over the course of our bankruptcy and following the acquisition by Republic, we have reorganized into an airline that has one of the lowest cost per available seat mile of any airline in the industry. Our number one priority is providing safe, reliable, low-cost service to our customers and doing it at a profit based on the low-cost structure we've worked two years to establish."
In the meantime, Frontier's rivals are likely to do everything they can to exploit the perception that the carrier is no longer Denver's own. "I saw the other day that United claimed to be Denver's hometown airline," Kowalchuk points out, "and I haven't seen any movement to get them pegged as liars for making that statement."
Still, he goes on, "I think it's important for our customers and our employees to know that there's a plan for growth in Denver -- a plan for growth that's expected this year. We've already seen growth in terms of expanded routes, addition of new destination cities and increased system frequency, which means flights in and out of different cities. And with the arrival of new aircraft this year, we'll see that growth increase and improve."
As such, "I think the question of whether we're Denver's hometown airline should be put to bed by the end of this year."
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