Departed Wings – Frontier Horizon (FW)
Written by Jon Jamieson
1984-1985 Denver, Colorado
Denver, Colorado based Frontier Airlines faced some daunting challenges during the early 1980s as the result of airline deregulation. Prior to deregulation in 1978, Frontier had approximately 40% of the traffic share from Denver Stapleton Airport, however just five years later in 1983, the airline saw its Denver market share drop to just 7%.
Fearing continued competition from low-cost carriers, especially new Denver entrant, Southwest Airlines, Frontier formulated a plan to compete and maintain its Denver strong-hold. A new airline, Frontier Horizon, was devised as an innovative solution to improve revenue, cater to business class customers, and provide throughput from major markets into the Frontier system at Denver. The new airline would be a wholly owned subsidiary of Frontier Holdings, Inc. and operate as a non-union entity using a fleet of seven Boeing 727s purchased from American Airlines. With approximately $30 million in start-up costs funded, Frontier Horizon took to the air on January 9, 1984, with service from Denver Stapleton International Airport to Chicago-O’Hare, Washington-National and San Francisco.
Almost immediately Frontier Horizon ran into trouble. Protests were held by the unionized workforce picketing the infusion of money into the “new” airline, while legacy Frontier suffered employee concessions and operating reductions. Another issue was the operating name chosen by the new airline.
Seattle based Horizon Airlines found heartache with the “Horizon” title and suggested it was too similar in nature to their name and filed a complaint. The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) agreed to the similarities, sided with Horizon Air and directed Frontier Holdings to rename the airline.
Using a public competition, a new name of Frontier Discovery was selected, yet the new name would not be applied. Although the airline started additional flights to New York-La Guardia, it was soon realized that operating two “separate” airlines caused an already difficult situation to be worse financially for Frontier.
In January 1985, the assets of Frontier Horizon were sold to a new operating company called Skybus Airlines.
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