By John W. McCurry
Denver-based Frontier Airlines has never been a major cargo player, but it’s had a reputation as a provider of reliable cargo services with competitive pricing. That’s all scheduled to go away effective Sept. 30 when the airline will discontinue cargo service. An announcement on the airline’s website says the last day for accepting outbound shipments at its cargo locations will be Friday, Sept. 27.
Frontier, which has been reported to be for sale by its current owner, Republic Airways Holdings, has said little publicly about the decision to drop cargo. Frontier spokeswoman Kate O’Malley would only say “it’s a business decision” when asked by Air Cargo World.
The move comes as a surprise and disappointment to airfreight forwarders. The Airforwarders Association board of directors, responding to concerns by its members, sent a letter to Frontier executives, including Chairman David Siegel, on July 25, asking the airline to reconsider its decision to drop cargo.
“The loss of Frontier as an air cargo provider will have a dramatic impact on the airfreight forwarding community and the many businesses it serves,” the letter states. “We urge you to reconsider and call upon the Airforwarders Association in any shortcoming that led to this decision.”
As of Aug. 9, Frontier had not responded to the AfA’s letter.
Michael Hess, vice president, strategic planning for Associated Global Systems, a forwarder based in Sharon Hill, Pa., says he was disappointed when he heard of Frontier’s decision. Hess also serves as president of the Airforwarders Association and says Frontier has not told forwarders why the move was made.
“When I got the call for from our national accounts person, I was surprised and shocked,” Hess says. “We use Frontier quite a bit. Frontier doesn’t make a lot of noise in the industry, but it does provide the industry with a good quality cargo product. It has offered competitive pricing and reliability.”
Hess says the cargo industry considered Frontier not just a low-cost carrier, but a cargo company that has stood up to the legacy carriers.
“It [dropping cargo] won’t hurt our company or the industry per se because there are other carriers out there that will benefit such as Southwest and JetBlue. That cargo has to go someplace and they will reap the rewards.”
Laura Coale, media relations director for Denver International Airport, says that Frontier ceasing cargo operations will not have a major impact on the airport. Frontier accounted for just 0.6 percent of the total cargo moved through DIA in June. Frontier carried 253,550 pounds through DIA in June, a drop of 25.8 percent from June 2012.
Orlando, Fla.-based Cargo Services International, a GSA, has served Frontier for nearly 20 years.
Malcolm Montgomery, president of Cargo Services International, referred questions to Frontier, but said, “I can say that from my perspective, it has been a long and very satisfying partnership, and that I wish the airline a successful future.”
For the moment, the industry can only speculate on the reasons for Frontier’s decision. One longtime cargo industry observer surmises that it may have to do with increased costs due to more stringent cargo screening requirements.