Frontier Airlines, an Ultra-low cost carrier (ULCC) announced this past week it will begin flights from Orlando to two new destinations – Islip, NY and Providence. Both routes are currently flown by Southwest Airlines, who Frontier is competing hard against in Orlando, Las Vegas, Denver and other points. Frontier’s business model is similar to Spirit Airlines, and like Spirit they fly many routes sub-daily.
The opening of Islip is particularly interesting because airlines through the years have come and gone from the Suffolk County-located airport. In the past Eastern, US Airways and Delta flew nonstops from Islip to Orlando and Fort Lauderdale for only a few years before abandoning the routes and ultimately mainline service at the airport. Spirit Airlines also twice (a decade apart) flew Islip to/from Fort Lauderdale service and pulled out of the market both times.
Currently, Southwest Airlines flies from Islip to Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and West Palm Beach nonstop but the airport has diminished in importance for the airline in recent years as SWA has pushed into New York’s more lucrative LaGuardia Airport and has also ramped up service across the Hudson at Newark. Islip service on Southwest is a remnant of the time when the airline didn’t fly to major airports in big cities and did not court business traffic. But times have changed and Southwest has gone from plucky outsider to one of the largest carriers on the planet and maybe the first air carrier in the history of this country to actually reach that elusive goal of “critical mass” in terms of moving people efficiently, quickly and effectively throughout the entire country. The airline now does court business traffic aggressively.
By contrast, Frontier like Spirt tend to appeal to those who wouldn’t fly otherwise or maybe cannot afford to fly a (somewhat) full service carrier. Las Vegas and Orlando with its low yields and tourist traffic are perfect hubs for ULCC’s which is why Frontier and Spirit have been so aggressive in both markets.
Don’t ever fly on Frontier. Quality of service on most airlines has significantly diminished. A one-way flight from Seattle to Orlando on Frontier was the worst nightmare ever experienced on an airline. Looking for the lowest fares online is aggravating. I found the lowest fare on Frontier . . . until all the added fees for luggage and transportation for my 12 pound Miniature Schnauzer the ticket was $363 one way not around $200! My son dropped me off at SeaTac where I checked in and was issued a boarding pass; of course Echo my Schnauzer was already in her crate. At the gate it was announced the flight would be leaving three hours late. Because of this I purchased a bottle of Green Machine that I drank with the goal of filling the bottle with water for Echo. When it came time to board I got in line and was told after waiting three hours I could not board Echo in a hard sided crate. Only then did I find out Echo would be in the cabin, as Frontier is not authorized by the FAA to carry pets in cargo. Why wasn’t I told this when I was given my Boarding Pass three hours earlier or better yet when I was about to purchase my ticket? The agent told me I could purchase an acceptable soft-sided crate from one of the airport vendors. I found none for sale. I called my son who went to a pet shop near his home miles from the airport and brought me soft-sided crate. Had to go through security again. Echo had no chance to relieve herself but had to be taken out of the soft-sided crate so it could be checked for security. Echo relieved herself on the floor. The TSA employee used paper towels to clean the floor. The bottle containing water for Echo was seized. Minutes later another TSA employee approached asking where Echo had relieved herself. I pointed to the spot and was told it would need to be checked for security and the bottle of water could contain explosives. When I got back to the gate I was told it was too late to board the plane and if I did not accept the next available flight I would have to forfeit my ticket. At this point I had to notify my friend who was going to pick me up in Orlando that I would NOT be in Orlando shortly before 11 PM as planned. It was announced the next flight would also be three hours late. We arrived in Orlando about 9 AM. Frontier charges for drinks en-route, there is no legroom and seats are very small and don’t recline. Frontier staff had no information on where the airport had dog walks. In Orlando a Southwest employee escorted me to the dog walk. I asked her where I could get some water for Echo. While we were in the very nice dog walk area The Southwest employee came out to the dog walk with a cup of water. That is service and I was not even one of their passengers. When it was time to return to Seattle after settling a $70,000 hurricane fine I decided to rent a car I was not going to put Echo through another nightmare.