The Denver Post reported that Frontier Airlines may stop using jet bridges at one of its hubs and replace them with air stairs.

Frontier plans significant Denver expansion

The addition of many new gates at Denver International Airport is part of a $1.5 billion investment. $317 million in additional costs has been proposed by the airport for a project that would see Frontier Airlines expand.

The ground-load facility at the eastern end of Concourse A would be renovated and expanded under the plan. The airline would trade in its nine traditional gates for 14 new ones in the early 20th century. The lease would last a long time.

Frontier is the third largest airline at Denver International Airport. The airline has a small market share.

The catch? The ground-load facility wouldn't have jet bridges, but passengers would board via ramps and stairs. Where is the upside for the airline?

  • Frontier Airlines would be able to expand its presence at the airport significantly, going from nine gates to 14 gates
  • The airline could cut turn times at the airport by nearly half in some cases; that’s because the airline could both load and deplane passengers via the forward and rear door, rather than just via the forward door
  • Not only would this mean that the airline goes from having nine gates to 14 gates, but each gate would also be able to accommodate more flights

Jake Filene is an executive at Frontier Airlines.

“Anybody who travels internationally within Europe, you’re going to see ground boarding just about everywhere, even for mainline aircraft. So for us, it makes a more efficient process and allows us to do what we’re all striving to do, which is to have our aircraft in the sky and not sitting on the ground.”

The proposed new Frontier Airlines facility in Denver

Would this be good or bad news for passengers?

On the one hand, seeing the airline expand in Denver would be good for consumers, as Frontier Airlines is known for its low fares. The airline could potentially operate more daily flights out of each gate if they got more gates. More flights puts more pressure on United and Southwest.

I don't think this kind of gate setup is ideal for conumsers.

  • One of the nice things about aviation in the United States is that jet bridges are used for a vast majority of mainline flights, especially at major airports (unlike in Europe)
  • On the other hand, at least these aren’t remote stands that you have to take a bus to get to; rather you’d just board directly from this remote terminal to the plane via a ramp or air stairs
  • One disadvantage of this setup is that these new gates would be quite far from the center of Concourse A, so it would take passengers significantly longer to get to their gates
  • Another major disadvantage is that Denver has inclement weather, at least seasonally, so I don’t see this being very pleasant when it’s snowing, raining, etc.

I'm usually against non-jet bridges at airports, but in this case I think the consumer benefit of a lot more Frontier flights out of Denver outweighs the downside of the less convenient gates. Even if you don't fly Frontier, this would put downward pressure on fares out of the airport.

Frontier Airlines may be giving up its current gates in Denver

Bottom line

We could see Frontier Airlines expand in Denver, but not without a catch. The carrier could go from having nine jet bridges to having 14 gates with air stairs or ramps.

Allowing the airline to expand at the airport would bring more competition to Denver. A longer walk from the main terminal and being exposed to the elements during boarding wouldn't be ideal.

The benefit of more competition at an airport like Denver would make this a net positive.

What do you think about Frontier's plans to expand in Denver?