In two moves that will likely discourage travel agents from
booking its seats, Frontier Airlines will withdraw from ARC on March 7, moving
to the host system Navitaire, a classic platform for low-fare carriers, and
announced that it will continue to participate in all four GDSs at a very
As a result, agents booking through GDSs and corporate
travelers using self-booking systems will be able to book only nonrefundable
economy tickets. More flexible Classic Plus fares will only be available for
purchase on the Frontier website.
Airline analyst Bob Mann said the moves were intended to
save money on distribution, which he called “a huge cost for every carrier and
particularly … for a low-fare carrier.”
Frontier tickets will also be available through online
travel agencies. However, because of the switch-over, Frontier tickets were
unavailable in Expedia, Orbitz and Priceline this week. Frontier spokesman Todd
Lehmacher said Expedia and Priceline would be online with Frontier early next
week. Orbitz said it would be onboard after it completes work to enable
offering Frontier as a ticketless carrier.
Also as a result of the switch-over, Frontier is requiring
some form of payment within four hours of the booking, though transactions
still can be voided within 24 hours without penalty, as required by the
Department of Transportation, Lehmacher said.
Frontier joins Spirit Airlines and Allegiant Air as
The changes make booking Frontier more time-consuming for
agents because they will now have to exit their workflow and point a browser to
the Frontier website to book more flexible tickets, said John Millsaps, travel
and technology specialist for Christopherson Travel, which is based in Salt
Lake City but has an office in Denver, where Frontier is based. Moreover, they
must call the carrier if they have to make exchanges, he said.
Christopherson Travel CEO Mike Cameron said the fact that Frontier is still participating in the GDSs is a positive.
The changes follow several run-ins Frontier has had with
agencies in recent years. In the spring of 2013, for example, it issued a press
release telling consumers that Frontier’s own website would henceforth be the
only place they could book an economy seat, not have to pay to use overhead bin
space and earn 100% mileage in Frontier’s Early Returns program. In fact,
however, knowledgeable agents could book those fares in the GDSs, enabling
their clients to get the same benefits available through direct bookings.
Not all carriers participate in ARC, which is owned by nine
airlines. Spirit and Allegiant, for example, do not participate. JetBlue
Airways was a notable holdout but started participating in ARC in 2009. All 200
participating airlines pay a monthly fee, which ARC did not disclose, and a
20-cent fee per transaction.
Southwest Airlines is both in and out of ARC, said travel
lawyer and Travel Weekly Legal Briefs columnist Mark Pestronk, as agents can
issue tickets and settle through ARC or make reservations and pay on behalf of
their clients directly with Southwest.
Christopherson Travel CEO Mike Cameron said the fact that
Frontier is still participating in the GDSs is a positive. In addition, he
noted, Frontier has a loyal, “almost cult-like following in the Denver market.”
“People see it as a local, hometown airline that keeps
United in check,” he said.
But in November, Frontier said it would cut jobs and flights
out of Denver, citing rising operating costs at its airport.
In addition, Frontier has gone through two ownership changes
in recent years. Republic Airways acquired it out of bankruptcy in 2009. Then,
in 2013, Republic sold Frontier to Indigo Partners, an investment firm run by
former Spirit Chairman William Franke.
Frontier said it would continue to operate its agency