LONDON – Barry Biffle, the CEO of Frontier Airlines (F9) stated via a virtual event this week that the Airbus A321XLR aircraft F9 has on order will not be used for transatlantic travel.

The order for 50 units of the type by the owners, Indigo Partners, placed at the Paris Air Show in June last year was the talking point at the Aviation Festival Americas (AFA) conference, where Biffle went into a little more detail about his plans, as reported by Simple Flying.

“I will tell you, the Atlantic … we’re not as interested in as others. I think the transatlantic is going to have 25 brands flying it. So why would I want to jump in the middle of all that?”

“You can go to Europe … northern South America, you can go to more places in Central America … you can go to Hawaii, or you can even fly transcon. For example, we can’t fly today from Boston to LA with our configuration, it just wouldn’t work with the A320, but with the XLR, it would.”

Photo: Airbus

Order Breakdown

The order breakdown of the 50 from Indigo Partners would see 20 aircraft sent to Wizz Air (W6), 18 to F9, and the other 12 to JetSMART (JA). 32 of the 50 aircraft in the order were pertinent to the XLR, with the other 18 being Airbus A320neo Family aircraft.

At the time of the order, Biffle said something very similar to what was said at AFA, potentially letting it slip about what destinations are being looked at.

“This aircraft enables us to fly coast-to-coast in the United States, reach Hawaii with a full load, and opens interesting international opportunities in Latin and South America”.

Photo: Luke Ayers

Still Time to Make a Decision

With Latin, South America and Hawaii appearing to be an option for the airline, there is still around three years before the aircraft is launched by manufacturer Airbus, meaning that there is plenty of time for such decisions to take place.

“So we’re still years away.”, Biffle said at AFA. “We didn’t make the decision with exact lines drawn on the map. What we did is, we said, “okay, with our operating license, where are all the opportunities that exist”.

With the transcon market still pretty full with the likes of American Airlines (AA), Delta Air Lines (DL), United Airlines (UA) and JetBlue (B6) all having a big chunk of the pie, looking more overseas may make more sense to F9.

Photo: Kochan Kleps

Is JetBlue a Factor in This?

Biffle, being vocal on transatlantic operations not looking likely for F9, would allow JetBlue (B6) to potentially beat the airline in terms of launch operations.

It comes as no surprise that B6 will penetrate the market sufficiently, especially with a Business Class setup that can be marketed for less of an airfare than the US3 and the likes of British Airways (BA) and Virgin Atlantic (VS).

With F9 being a ultra-low-cost-carrier anyway, it could still offer a cheaper price-point than B6, but with the operating costs being traditionally higher on these sort of flights, it may not be a sustainable option for the airline.

Therefore, B6 could have a factor in swinging F9 to head more west-wards from Denver (DEN) than east-wards to the likes of London Heathrow (LHR), Paris (CDG) or Madrid (MAD).

Photo: Nicholas Vitolano

What Next?

With Biffle killing the F9 Transatlantic dream for now, all we can do next is wait for the aircraft to be sent over to the airline in the next three to four years.

Airways predicts that such route launch announcements will take place a few months before the aircraft are delivered, especially if it is significant for the airline to announce.

For now, all Frontier Airlines will now focus on is ensuring liquidity during the COVID-19 pandemic because if it doesn’t focus on that, then any significant plans or moves it wants to make in the future will be harder.

Featured Image: Frontier Airlines Airbus A321XLR. Photo Credit: Airbus.