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US ULCC Frontier faces the same cost challenges from impending labour deals as other large airlines

A likely major focus for the US ULCC Frontier Airlines in 2017 is forging collective bargaining agreements with two of its largest employee groups – pilots and flight attendants. Although the airline’s transition to the ULCC business model is complete, Frontier’s employees weathered several challenges prior to the strategy change, including a bankruptcy during 2008 in which the company was sold. Now employees believe they should share in Frontier’s newfound profitability. When the company reaches new collective bargaining agreements with its pilots and flight attendants Frontier will face the challenge of offsetting the cost inflation generated by those new labour deals with higher revenue generation.

Frontier’s financial turnaround has spurred speculation during 2016 that the airline’s majority owner Indigo Partners was preparing the company for an initial public offering. Nothing has materialised in 2016 but Indigo has expressed interest in investing in other regions, so an IPO could become a more distinct possibility in the not too distant future.

As a privately held company Frontier does not offer forward-looking guidance on capacity growth or network plans, but it appears the airline should post double-digit increases in seat expansion for 2016, and with a steady stream of Airbus deliveries planned for 2017 Frontier’s growth for the year is likely to remain similar to 2016 levels.

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