Frontier Airlines shortens 2017 season in Missoula amid destination expansion

A push by Frontier Airlines into new markets will nearly double the number of destinations served by the low-fare carrier next summer, good news for Missoula passengers who frequent the airline’s service to Denver.

At the same time, however, the airline will shorten its seasonal service in the Missoula market this year to prepare for the changes.

The airline will leave the market this year on Oct. 1, as opposed to later in November.

“They did a full-blown schedule change and announced a bunch of new cities, but they funded it by pulling some of their summer-seasonal cities like Bozeman, Missoula and Bismarck,” said Brian Ellestad, deputy director of the Missoula International Airport. “We’ve had good communications with them, and their plans are to come back again next summer.”

Earlier this month, Frontier announced a significant network expansion, adding 21 new cities to effectively increase its number of destinations by 30 percent.

By next spring, their airline will offer low fares to 90 percent of the U.S. market. That, according to the airline, will bring more than $1 billion in savings to consumers through lower airfares.

“Customers will benefit not only from the broad new selection of nonstop routes, but our growing network will provide more than 1,000 new connecting route options,” said airline president and CEO Barry Biffle. “By taking advantage of our natural share of connecting passengers, we can offer our low fares to even more of America.”

Frontier re-entered the Missoula market after a 19-year absence in 2014 with nonstop service to Denver. In 2015, it reduced its flights from four days to three, partially due to increased taxes and landing fees imposed at its major hub at Denver International Airport.

Missoula’s economic leaders, including Missoula Economic Partnership, have talked about asking Frontier to stay in the Missoula market year-round, citing the impact its low fares have had on fares charged by other airlines.

While MEP continues its efforts to establish a revenue guarantee program in hopes of enticing Frontier and other airlines into the Missoula market, airport officials are looking to other carriers to fill the void left by Frontier during this upcoming holiday season.

“We’ve already reached out to United to fill some gaps around Christmas, and we’ve already seen Delta add some stuff in the November range,” Ellestad said. “Frontier has indicated that they will continue next summer’s seasonal Denver service.”

Load factors on Frontier out of Missoula were 74 percent in May and June, an increase of 1 percent over the prior year.