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Frontier Shows April Traffic and Revenue Weakness

I was just thinking that I hadn't checked in on Frontier in quite awhile, so when they released their traffic info yesterday, I figured I would give it a closer look. This month's release paints a picture of a shrinking airline that didn't exactly have the best month around.

Since Frontier entered bankruptcy, the airline has slashed capacity fairly dramatically. They've sold airplanes and tried to focus on their best routes. But is it working? It's hard to draw conclusions from a single month, but April wasn't good for them.

In April, Frontier was one of only two airlines I track that showed declining load factors. (Delta was the other.) For mainline flying, Frontier's load factor dropped 1.4 points to a still-healthy 80.1 percent. So that's not bad, right? But seeing that capacity was actually down 16.1 percent year-over-year, you might think they could have filled more seats.

Did they make up for it on the yield side of the house? Well, sort of, but not really. Yields were down 1.7 percent with unit revenue (RASM) down 3.3 percent on the combination of lower yields and lower loads. This, of course, is far better than most legacy carriers but it lags other low cost carriers. And the fact that the airline's stage length actually dropped by 6 percent makes it even more concerning. Shorter stages have higher yields, so adjusting for stage length makes this an even greater drop than it appears.

On the regional side, it was a different story. Lynx has grown since last year by 12 percent, but its load factor dropped 4.3 points to only 53.7 percent. Not good, right? No. See, yield was up 8.4 points so even with the drop in loads, RASM was still up by 0.5 points. That may sound better than mainline, but with stage length dropping a whopping 13.9 points, the adjustment means it was actually a lot worse than it looks.

Not a great month for Frontier, that's for sure. It will be interesting to see how they do in the summer peak this year. I'll do my best to pay closer attention.

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