Industry Research : Frontier Last Again in Complaints and Arrival Times — But Improving
Denver, CO, USA, June 11, 2015 -- Frontier Airlines once again had the highest complaint rate and lowest on-time arrival rate of any major American airline in April, but the Denver airline improved its numbers in both categories.
Its complaint rate, which was eight times the industry average in March, fell by almost half in April — from 15.84 complaints per 100,000 enplanements to 8.67, according to the latest Air Travel Consumer Report issued Thursday by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
That still put it ahead of fellow carrier Spirit Airlines, which ranked next-to-last with 7.34 complaints filed with the DOT per 100,000 enplanements, rather than 50 percent ahead of it as it had been during the previous month.
Frontier outsourced its call-center and gate-staffing functions and also launched a new reservations system in February and March, leaving customers angry about missed flights and an inability to discuss their issues with staffers.
But president Barry Biffle said in a recent interview — which will be part of a Friday cover story on Frontier in the print edition of the Denver Business Journal — that complaints were dropping as Frontier worked out the glitches in the system, and that the company was saving the money it needs to offer substantially lower fares than most of its competitors.
Frontier, the No. 3 carrier at Denver International Airport, received 87 complaints in April — the fourth-highest total among the country’s 13 largest airlines — over a total of 1,003,779 enplanements.
That 8.67 rate was 5.2 times higher than the industry average of 1.66 complaints per 100,000 enplanements. DIA No. 2 carrier Southwest Airlines led the industry with a 0.44 rate, while top DIA carrier United Airlines ranked 11th with a 2.77 rate.
Frontier’s top reason for complaints was flight problems (26), followed by reservation/ticketing issues (20), baggage problems (14) and refunds (11).
The Denver-headquartered airline also finished last again in terms of the percentage of its flights arriving at their destinations within 15 minutes of its scheduled time. But where Frontier hit its mark just 65.2 percent of the time in March, it got in on-time 72.5 percent of the time in April.
Hawaiian Airlines led the industry in April with a 92.7 percent on-time arrival rate. Southwest was sixth among the 13 major carriers at 81.8 percent, while United was 10th at 79.4 percent.
At DIA, Southwest led all airlines in April with flights coming in on time 84.1 percent of the time. United was fifth in Denver with an 81.1 percent on-time arrival rate, while Frontier ranked ninth out of the 10 carriers listed on the report with a 75.6 percent rate. JetBlue Airways finished last at 73.3 percent.
Biffle said last month that Frontier was making special efforts to improve its departure rate, focusing on ensuring the first flight of each plane gets off on time daily in order to avoid a domino effect that delays flights later in the day. Frontier officials announced this week that they have dropped departure times from boarding passes and replaced them with earlier times at which boarding begins and at which the door closes.
Frontier spokesman Jim Faulkner on Thursday acknowledged both the progress that the airline is making and the work that still lies ahead of it.
"Complaints were half of March numbers, and we still have more work to do," Faulkner said. "[Frontier] opened a new Systems Operations Control Center June 1, which will better help the airline recover the operation from out of service aircraft events, irregular operations as well as scheduled events."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Monday, June 1, 2015