Frontier Airlines is committed to delivering “Low Fares Done Right”. More than just a tagline or marketing campaign, this is Frontier’s driving philosophy! While that has and will remain constant, many things are evolving as Frontier continues its transformation into North America’s premier air carrier. Operational improvements, fleet growth and network expansion just scratch the surface.
Frontier has placed significant emphasis on operational improvements in order to provide a better product for its customers. Affordable, reliable and friendly service starts with performance; completing the mission with flights that leave on time and arrive on time. Continuing to efficiently utilize and deploy their fleet, repeating this type of performance year after year, day after day, flight after flight showcases how serious Frontier is about serving its customers safely and reliably. Year-to-date statistics from masFlight, an analytics platform, for 2016 show that Frontier ranks in the top third of all U.S. Airlines with regard to:
- Completion Factor
- D0 (departing within 0 minutes of scheduled departure time)
- A14 (arriving within 0 minutes of scheduled arrival time)
- B0 (flights arriving within 0 minutes of scheduled block time)
That type of operational performance allows Frontier to proudly deliver Customer Service Done Right. Not just another tagline or gimmick, Customer Service Done Right is the very name of Frontier’s initiative to focus on its customers. The initiative is working. DOT reporting statistics, through April, show a marked change in customer satisfaction. Placing focus on its website and providing its customers with information and flexibility when purchasing a ticket has increased the transparency of their a la carte business model. This has allowed Frontier passengers to make decisions based on their individual needs when deciding to book a flight.
Frontier currently has 60 aircraft on property, and that number will continue to dramatically increase. Having recently placed its largest aircraft order ever (119 Airbus A320 series aircraft), Frontier began receiving new aircraft late last year with the delivery of their first Airbus A321. This autumn Frontier will accept delivery of its first (of more than 80) Airbus A320 NEOs. Over the next 5 years Frontier plans to more than double the size of their fleet.
Frontier’s fleet isn’t just growing; it is being maintained with pride! 2015 was the third consecutive year that the Frontier Maintenance team received the FAA Diamond Award of Excellence. This is the highest award presented for participation in the FAA Aviation Maintenance Technician Awards Program and requires 100 percent of eligible employees to receive an individual award for training in the following:
- Human Factors
- Aircraft Systems
- FAA Core Competencies
- Frontier was only one of two U.S. airlines to receive the award in 2015.
Network expansion has been consistent at Frontier. 2016 alone has seen more than 50 new routes announced. Now serving more than 60 destinations in the United States, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, today’s route map is more robust than ever. Frontier’s strategic network planning has contributed greatly to their operational success.
“Travelers between big cities have enjoyed low fares while many markets have remained overpriced and underserved,” said Frontier Airlines President and CEO Barry Biffle. “Frontier’s low fares in these new markets will benefit millions of new fliers who are forced to drive because they haven’t found affordable air travel options – or they simply stay at home. We see hundreds of additional opportunities like these throughout the country…”
Frontier submitted a filing with the US Department of Transportation petitioning to provide service to nine separate destinations within Cuba. At the time of this writing, Frontier was still awaiting official response from the DOT.
To aide in their focus on operational performance and support their growing fleet, employee work force and network expansion, Frontier opened a new System Operational Control (SOC) center in June, 2015. This new SOC is larger and equipped with state of the art tools that allow Team Frontier members to keep their airline running smoothly throughout the day. Work groups critical to Frontier’s daily operation who work within the SOC include:
- Maintenance Control
- AOG/Parts provision & purchasing
- Centralized Load Planning
- Crew Scheduling
Many of the operational improvements made at Frontier over the last 12 months directly affected Frontier pilots. Perhaps the most notable change from a pilot’s perspective was the addition of their Orlando, FL crew domicile. Opened in September 2015, Frontier’s MCO domicile currently has 200 pilots (100 CAs/100 FOs) and while it is currently the most junior CA base, many CAs from Frontier’s Chicago and Denver domiciles have voluntarily relocated to sunny Florida.
Although Frontier continues to evolve, they are still very nimble and able to quickly adapt to changing market conditions. This ability and advantage was probably best highlighted by their ability to shift the focus of their flying organic to Chicago from Midway airport to O’Hare airport. The approximately 200 pilots who are based in Chicago now originate and terminate all scheduled flying at ORD.
Frontier’s home and original crew domicile, Denver, still remains its largest with just over 600 pilots.
Frontier is able to regularly conduct voluntary staffing adjustments and nearly all of their new hire First Officers are able to “hold” the domicile of their choosing within the first 3 months of employment.
October 2015 was a very exciting month for Team Frontier as they inducted their first Airbus A321 into their fleet. Aircraft 701 has Otto the Owl adorned on its tail and is configured to happily transport 230 passengers at a time. Frontier’s seat mapping and seat density are definitely integral to their success and a key element of their Low Fares Done Right philosophy. Continuing their commitment to this plan, Frontier will begin receiving the first of their confirmed order of 80 Airbus A320NEOs featuring the space-flex galley and 186 seats in early September of this year. With a seemingly constant stream of new aircraft entering its fleet, Frontier’s crews must be getting pretty used to that new airplane smell… and they will be enjoying that for some time. Frontier’s fleet size will double over the next five years.
New aircraft and new markets have ushered in a hiring boom at Frontier that is not expected to slow down anytime in the near future. Since the summer of 2013 Frontier has nearly doubled the size of its pilot ranks; their forecast fleet size will see that list double again by 2021 meaning quick upgrade times. Frontier’s current Captain upgrade time is approximately 2 years.
As Aero Crew News went to press, Frontier announced pilot hiring partnerships with Great Lakes Airlines and Silver Airways designed to remove many of the career uncertainties that pilots face as they begin their airline careers. The partnerships guarantee pilots entering the Career Pilot Program a first officer position with Frontier upon completion of defined experience requirements. These agreements are unique in that they do guarantee that the pilot will transition to Frontier as a first officer as soon as they have completed the experience requirements defined in each of their partner agreements. These programs are an excellent opportunity not only for those beginning their airline careers but for those who are in the midst of acquiring valuable experience. Opportunities are present in the agreements for New Hires, Current Pilots and in at least one agreement, “Street” Captains.
“With forecasted retirements, it’s no secret that the demand for highly qualified pilots will grow over the next several years,” said JP Thibodeau, Frontier’s chief pilot. “This new partnership helps address our future pilot staffing needs while providing pilots entering the workforce a certainty for their careers.”
As Frontier continues its transformation, one thing has remained the same – Their people and culture. As unique as each of the animals that adorn the tails of the Airbus fleet, Frontier recognizes the greatness of each of its employees and remains as committed as ever to maintaining what has made them “A whole different animal”.
Frontier meets many of their pilots at Aero Crew events. Be sure to meet with them at our next event. Should you be called for an interview, the following gouge should be a good place to start studying.
Interview with Aaron Rex and JP Thibodeau; Assistant Chief Pilot and Chief Pilot, Frontier Airlines
Craig: How do you select applicants to be brought in for an interview?
Aaron Rex and JP Thibodeau: We use 2 primary sources and 1 secondary: Our internal Silver Bullet and Recommendation system, the candidates that come to us recruiting event (like Aero Crew solutions!) and finally, drawing directly from our online application requisition. Having an internal recommendation or coming to a job fair are definitely the best ways to secure an interview.
C: What can an applicant do to increase their chances of being called for an interview?
AR/JP: As stated above, if you don’t have an internal recommendation, getting some face time at a recruiting event is the best way to secure an interview. We’ve been very pleased with the candidates we’ve hired from the events. Being able to sit face to face with someone for 10-15 minutes before inviting them to a formal interview has been very beneficial.
C: How critical is it to attend a job fair to get an interview?
AR/JP: It’s not essential, but it definitely shows determination on behalf of the candidate to target Frontier Airlines, as opposed to us not knowing if we are just one of many recipients of the candidate’s resume.
C: What is the best way to prepare for an interview with your company?
AR/JP: We always encourage anyone to invest in some interview prep. Otherwise, our process is pretty straightforward. As long as you’ve prepared for a technical interview, can demonstrate your judgment and decision making process, and can convince us that you’re hard working and have the right attitude, you’ve got a pretty good chance of getting the job.
C: Do you recommend that applicants get to your head quarters city the day before and get a hotel room for the night?
AR/JP: That’s up to the candidate. Our interviews begin with a Chief Pilot presentation at 7am. It can be difficult to get a flight in that early.
C: Can you walk me through a typical day of interviews?
AR/JP: We begin with the Chief Pilot presentation at 7:00. That lasts about an hour. At 8:00 we bring the candidates into our employee lunchroom and they will spend most of the day there waiting to be called for their various interviews. There will be representatives of the airline with them to answer questions and socialize with for the duration of the day. They will have a panel interview with several pilot interviewers and an HR representative. They will also sit in a Situational Based Interview that consists of a real life scenario with a set amount of time to come to a decision. The Frontier team will convene at the conclusion of the interviews and make a decision regarding each candidate that day.
C: What kind of questions can an applicant expect to be asked?
AR/JP: Now Craig, we don’t want to give away all our secrets. ☺
C: Can you give me some examples of the TMAAT questions that you like to ask?
AR/JP: TMAAT that you had a disagreement with a fellow crew member and how did you handle it?
C: If the TMAAT question being asked does not apply to that applicant can that question be skipped?
AR/JP: Well, we can’t force a person to answer a question, but we feel our questions are pretty straightforward and common to just about any person’s life experience. We would expect that most questions should be easily answered.
C: What are some of the biggest mistakes that applicants make during the interview process?
AR/JP: We want to really get to know the applicant. If we feel that the candidate is not being honest in an answer or is just giving us the “canned” answer that an interview book thinks the interviewer is looking for, then it’s going to be more difficult for the candidate to succeed. Take time before the interview to think about the events in your career that have given you valuable experience and made you a better employee or pilot. Be ready to use and share those moments.
C: Is there a written or computer test?
C: Do you have a simulator ride?
C: Do you tell applicants they are hired in person that day?
C: How soon can an applicant expect a class date after being hired?
AR/JP: 30-45 days
C: How many pilots does your airline expect to hire this year?
C: Does Frontier have a pilot referral program?
AR/JP: Yes, we do. We allow those who have been with Frontier Airlines for a least one year to provided Flight Operations with a “Silver Bullet” recommendation. Those who have not been employed for at least one year are eligible to provide Flight Operations with a “Pilot Recommendation”.
C: Can you describe the career path program that Frontier has with any regional partners?
AR/JP: Frontier Airlines has entered into pilot hiring partnerships with both Cheyenne, Wyo.-based Great Lakes Airlines and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Silver Airways as part of the Frontier Career Pilot Program. Designed to remove many of the career uncertainties that pilots face as they begin their airline careers this program guarantees pilots entering the Career Pilot Program a first officer position with Frontier upon completion of defined experience requirements.