Frontier Airlines passengers in Denver will get on the tarmac to board and disembark aircraft under a new plan that obliges carrier DIA for the next decade.
Denver International Airport has offered to add $ 317 million to contracts for projects that include a major project aimed at making its third-largest carrier happy and there is room for growth. DIA will spend $ 183 million to renovate and expand an existing ground-based facility used primarily by other airlines at the eastern end of Hall A.
The Denver-based Frontier Company, which now operates mostly from nine traditional A-gates with jet bridges, will get exceptional use and brand for all 14 gates in the expanded room for ground loading. Its move to early 2024 will open more gates for other airlines, giving the DIA more flexibility in shuffling exit tasks.
While switching to ground loading would save Frontier money in the long run, its executives say the decision was more about efficiency.
The new gates will reduce the time between flights, reducing the time by almost half in some cases. This is because the airline could load and unload passengers in two doors of the aircraft simultaneously, through a ramp with a switch in the front, which is accessible to people with disabilities, and a ladder behind. Each gate could handle more aircraft per day.
“Anyone traveling abroad … in Europe, you’ll see landings almost everywhere, even for trunk planes,” said Jake Fillen, senior vice president of frontier customer service. “So for us, it makes the process more efficient and allows us to do what we all strive for, namely keep our plane in the sky instead of sitting on the ground.”
One of the disadvantages for passengers is the long way between the new gate and the center of Hall A with its connection to the DIA terminal. They will also be more prone to the elements during planting.
But a proposal made by the Denver City Council committee on Wednesday afternoon answers a question that hung in the air through other recent DIA gate extensions: what about the Frontier?
United and Southwest have closed all 39 new gates, which will open by the end of the year as part of a $ 1.5 billion expansion in all three halls. United, which manages one of its largest nodes in the DIA, had the largest market share last year – 44%, and Southwest – in second place – almost 32%.
Frontier, whose market share was 11%, supports DIA as the second largest base after Orlando International Airport.
The hometown airline is in the midst of a proposed merger with Spirit Airlines, another “ultra-budget” airline with a mostly additional network of routes serving the eastern United States and the Caribbean. But this week, the deal was challenged by JetBlue Airways ’competing unwanted offer to buy Spirit.
Whatever happens is unlikely to affect his new plans in Denver, Frontier says.
“It’s a commitment to Denver,” Owl said. “It’s a drive to increase capacity in Denver and a new passenger experience in Denver.”
The pandemic has interrupted a long lane of passenger traffic in the DIA, but the latest figures for February exceeded the level of 2019, said CEO Phil Washington. With airlines ’high interest in DIA, the airport – which is fully supported by the revenue it generates – spends billions of dollars on expansion projects. Among them is the long-term repair of the terminal, which will not be done for at least five years.
George Karaiannakis, DIA’s deputy aviation manager, noted that the typical airline lease is valid for three years, making the Frontier 10-year agreement a “very big deal”. It will take effect when the new facility is completed in two years.
“We expect this lease to last until 2034,” he told the committee.
The new Frontier facility, if approved by the city council in the coming weeks, will be 120,000 square feet, extending to two existing low-rise wings that continue east of the end of Hall A. The 37,000-square-foot extension will continue north. a wing that the DIA built four years ago to provide nine temporary gates for United, while elsewhere the hall was being built.
The expanded facility will include a support room and, between the gate wings, a new 8,000-square-foot maintenance facility. Several suburban airlines using some of the current ground gates will soon move to a new ground facility that is part of the Concourse C expansion.
To pay for most of the new project, DIA plans to issue bonds redeemed at $ 4.50 for each ticket. Fillen said Frontier’s new rental structure, which keeps gate rates at the same level rather than lowering them for land gates, will also help pay for the costs.
Frontier leased 14 gates to the DIA until it abandoned six of them under a lease amendment in late 2015 that aimed to save money by consolidating activities in the DIA. Most recently, when the airline and DIA assessed its needs, Frontier acted on a short-term lease.
The airline now serves about 80 destinations from Denver and says it needs more capacity to grow.
“This agreement marks a new era for Frontier Airlines and Denver International Airport,” President and CEO Barry Bifle said in a statement to Frontier.
Other new projects offered at DIA
Documents submitted to the board committee ahead of Wednesday’s meeting describe $ 317 million in amendments to contracts with key contractors responsible for the hall’s expansion program. This program, originally $ 1.5 billion, has been expanded to $ 2.1 billion in 2020 to add settings for United and Southwest and renovate old parts of the halls.
The DIA is re-amending contracts without new job applications, although Stu Williams, senior vice president of airport expansion, said subcontractors will do most of it.
“These contractors act as general contractors … (and) much of the work you see here is exhibited through the community,” Williams told the committee.
In addition to expanding the ground load for the Frontier, other new components offered include rehabilitating the pavement for platforms at several original gates and a new taxiway to expand the capacity of the anti-icing area.
They also include about $ 50 million for insurance repairs to the gate extension at the east end of Hall B, where a hot water pipe rupture in December caused great damage to an almost complete extension. Additional management and engineering costs increased the latest estimate to $ 58.3 million.