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.