US Customs and Border Protection announced eight US airports have been cleared to offer passenger charter services to and from Cuba (Bloomberg/AP/The Baltimore Sun, 09-Mar-2011). Atlanta, Chicago O’Hare, Dallas-Fort Worth and Baltimore-Washington, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Tampa and San Juan were recently granted permission to commence Cuba services. Previously, only Miami International, John F Kennedy Airport and Los Angeles were permitted. Regular services to Cuba were banned around 50 years ago during Fidel Castro’s rise to power.
Eight more airports can now operate services to Cuba
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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.
Frontier Airlines' on-time performance hiccups in summer 2016; IPO still in abeyance
Frontier Airlines began 2016 making meaningful strides in its on-time performance, besting its closest US ULCC rival Spirit Airlines. But its performance in the busy summer months of Jun-2016 and Jul-2016 slipped, due largely to challenges in ground handling. Now Frontier faces the task of restoring its OTP to consistently higher levels.
Frontier’s network composition is slightly different from those of the two other US ULCCs, Allegiant and Spirit. Its average weekly frequencies fall between those offered by its ULCC counterparts and, in some ways, Frontier’s network changes seem more rapid than those of other ultra-low cost airlines as it works to tailor the ULCC model to its specific strategy.
As a privately held company, Frontier does not discuss its growth prospects as freely as Allegiant and Spirit. But the airline has an ample pipeline of Airbus deliveries that will drive its growth over the medium to long term. During the past year the prospect of an IPO to fund Frontier’s growth has surfaced and quietened down; but at some point in the not-too-distant future the company’s investors will seek rewards for their endeavours.