Frontier Airlines Airbus A320 landing. (photo via Laser1987/iStock Editorial/Getty Images Plus)
Frontier Airlines CEO Barry Biffle speaks.
And he has much to say.
A little more than a week since JetBlue Airways suddenly and surprisingly made an unsolicited offer to buy Spirit Airlines – which had all but signed the papers on a merger with Frontier in February – Biffle spoke at length for the first time in an interview with David Koenig of the Associated Press.
The big topic, of course, was the proposed merger that would make a combined Frontier/Spirit the fifth-biggest airline in the U.S. Biffle said prior to JetBlue’s announcement, Frontier and Spirit have begun talking with regulators about the merger.
“We have started the process and it’s a very normal process so far. This is going to take to the end of the year to complete. They have questions, and we will deal with them in due course,” he said, adding that he has not heard any feedback yet that would suggest a legislative challenge to the merger.
When told that Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and other members of Congress have asked the administration to scrutinize the potential merger, Biffle took the high road.
“They didn’t come out opposing it. They are asking the administration to look into if this is going to raise fares to consumers. I understand their concern,” he said. “Many of the mergers that have created the big four in the United States (American, Delta, United and Southwest) caused some challenges for people. I think as they see the facts, they are going to see that (the Frontier-Spirit deal) is good for consumers.”
As for summer travel, Biffle echoes the thoughts of his colleagues that he expects a boffo turnout among fliers – to the point where he believes Frontier will return to profitability.
“We have gone from possibly the worst revenue period at the beginning of Q1, in January and February, to one of the best sales periods,” he said. “Fare levels and total revenue per passenger in the early March time frame exceeded 2019 levels — over $120 per passenger. COVID has held everyone back, but eventually after two years, it would appear people are ready to get back to their lives.”