By Ian McMurtry
Frontier Shelves Wichita Service For Immediate Future
Wichita Airport will once again go without Frontier Airlines as the ultra-low-cost carrier announced that was going forward with suspending all service to Wichita. The airline had previously expected to resume Wichita-Las Vegas service using Airbus A320neos on April 1, but now says that a lack of available aircraft will prevent that from happening.
The airline had peaked in late 2020 and early 2021 when services to both Las Vegas and Denver were conducted from the Kansas city. The airline has been servicing Wichita since flights to Denver, which it started in August 2018.
However, the routes that Frontier operated were already served by a plethora of competitors. The airline initially went head-to-head with United in 2018, decreasing Denver-going passengers’ airfare by 29% when the low-cost airline arrived on site. However, since then, Southwest utilized the market shifts caused by the period of fluctuating demand resulting from Covid-19 to launch its own Denver to Wichita flight, which didn’t help Frontier and created a surplus of capacity as a result. Frontier would exit the Denver to Wichita market in September as a result of that increased competition.
On the Las Vegas route, Frontier had actually used the Covid-19 period to its own advantage launching the additional Wichita going service. However, this route would only be seasonal and would face low-cost competition from Allegiant Air and Southwest Airlines, who had both operated the route prior to the pandemic’s start.
Wichita Airport Authority Air Service and Marketing Manager Valerie Wise noted the loss, saying, “We certainly are disappointed that Frontier is leaving, especially now that passenger demand is increasing and more seats are needed.”
This marks the second time that Frontier has exited the Wichita market, following the November 2012 departure of the airline citing lack of demand. Back then, the airline served Wichita with two daily flights using Lynx Aviation Bombardier Dash 8-Q400s. The airline had excited with only United left as the serving connection between the two cities.
The removal of Frontier still leaves Wichita with some low cost carrier service and competition on both the Denver-Wichita and Las Vegas-Wichita. Allegiant and Southwest continue to provide service to Las Vegas and Southwest continues to challenge United to Denver as well as offer flights to Phoenix and St. Louis. Allegiant continues to serve additional flights to Phoenix/Mesa, St. Petersburg (FL) and seasonal service to Destin, Los Angeles and Orlando-Sanford.
The remaining airlines are the traditional legacy three of American, United and Delta with services to their respective hubs. Alaska rounds out the airline listings, with one daily flight to Seattle. Despite the loss of Frontier, Wichita continues to show a strong recovery as January passenger traffic increased 74.87% in year-over-year performance in 2022. The airport hosted 93,307 passengers and saw the number of scheduled flights also increase by 31.7% with 801 departures over the calendar month.
Frontier notes that they will maintain hopes to return when aircraft are available for the carrier to use on routes out of the city.