On The Day Of Frontier And Spirit Announce A Merger, Frontier Can’t Get Planes Off The Ground

Spirit Airlines is being taken over by Frontier. The two large ultra low cost carriers in the U.S. are merging, if the U.S. government allows it, bringing together the primary drivers of lower fares and disaggregated service in the domestic market.

Bill Franke used to control Spirit, now controls Frontier, and has brought the low cost model abroad. He also led America West and mentored that carrier’s CEO Doug Parker who went on to lead US Airways and American Airlines.

After his departure from Spirit, that carrier began investing in greater reliability and inflight wifi. It’s unclear whether technology investments will continue with Frontier taking over. And this morning’s Frontier Airlines operational meltdown – on the day of the merger announcement – doesn’t auger well.

Frontier put in place a ground stop for all of its flights, as the airline’s IT systems melted down at its operations center.

As I write this, Frontier Airlines has cancelled nearly a quarter of its schedule for the day. Frontier and Spirit will together be the nation’s fifth largest carrier, and when they melt down together that will have an even greater impact on the nation’s air transportation.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I see this, I see the Southwest meltdowns over the last year, I see the Spirit meltdowns last year…

    All could have been avoided with a reasonable investment in IT. Truly, I do believe there’s room for a better carrier with a competitive advantage in just having reasonably modern (read: not mainframe) systems designs and leveraging those to improve both operations and the customer experience.

  2. That’s what would happen when these airlines outsource to India companies.
    Same karma happened to Boeing outsourcing MCAS design works to Indian consultants.

  3. Funny that someone thinks a mainframe can’t possibly be modern. I suppose running on AWS is the better solution. As if that never goes down… (and I’m an engineer that works on cloud deployment witha good deal of AWS). I’d much rather my planes be under mainframe control anyday.

  4. It’s noteworthy that JetBlue had the worst on-time performance yesterday of the US mainline airlines – even worse than Frontier – even though Frontier had an IT meltdown. Sure, Frontier cancelled a higher percentage of flights but other carriers have had double digit cancellations on multiple days since the beginning of the year.
    once Frontier got its IT issues fixed, they managed to operate their schedule better than JetBlue which posts similar 30%+ of its flights late on a consistent basis.

  5. IT meltdowns happen in many industries and this problem squarely rests with the people that design the upgrades. They think they have all the answers yet somehow manage to screw it up at some point and an entire Operation comes to a screeching halt. JetBlue having more operational issues/cancellations considering the Frontier meltdown is just a complete reflection of piss poor Management at the helm of JetBlue. Inexcusable.

  6. It is looking more and more like AA (and perhaps UA) won’t be around 10-15 years from now.
    We will have DL, SW, AS and ULCC ‘frontier spirit’ – Jet Blue may survive as a boutique-niche carrier.
    Americans are now accustomed to pay-for-it amenities so no reason to doubt the long term success – hoping they keep the animals on the tail but keep the yellow and black logo

  7. Frequent Spirit flyer, merger/takeover by Frontier bad timing for Spirit customers. In the last year or so, Spirit has gotten its act together, vs past years. Certainly, could improve in customer service area by US based call center.

  8. I am setting an over/under of 4 years for Frontier Spirit merges with America West…errr…American Airlines

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