DENVER (CBS4) – With the phrase “Never fly Frontier” now a hashtag and passengers sharing their frustration across social media, Denver marketing expert Darrin Duber-Smith says the low-budget airline needs to focus on damage control to recover.
“They need to admit the problem. They’ve apologized for it, but they really haven’t given any reparations,” said Duber-Smith, a professor at Metro State University in Denver. “What are they going to do for the customers?”
Frontier blamed hundreds of canceled flights, baggage pileups, and long lines that have plagued passengers since Saturday on the weekend’s snowstorm. However, a Frontier flight attendant told CBS4 the problems are a result of mismanagement, not weather.
“We’re all tired of having the company make excuses for this and saying it was the crews that couldn’t make it to the airport when we know that’s not the truth,” she said, asking not to be identified for fear of losing her job.
The union that represents Frontier pilots, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), issued its own statement calling the recent failures a “meltdown … due to the same executive mismanagement and misplaced focus on cost-cutting that has placed Frontier near the very bottom of the industry in operational performance and customer satisfaction.”
In a statement to CBS4, Frontier’s chief executive officer, Barry Biffle responded to the ALPA’s letter:
“First of all, we want to apologize to everyone affected by the recent events. In the last three years, Indigo and this management team have turned Frontier — then an airline emerging from bankruptcy and facing an uncertain future — into an expanding and profitable carrier. The airline’s success and improved operations have won over a steadily growing, loyal customer base. The size of this week’s snowstorm took everyone by surprise being considerably worse than forecast, and was extraordinarily disruptive in Denver, where Frontier is more concentrated than any other airline. Heavy snow and gate constraints created a difficult situation for passengers and our teams. We think our teams did an outstanding job under very difficult circumstances and we thank them for their efforts. Given the circumstances, we view recent finger-pointing statements as uninformed and unhelpful. Unfortunately, during contract negotiations, it is common to take advantage of situations.”
Frontier has declined several of CBS4’s requests for on-camera interviews.
Duber-Smith says Frontier’s response may be missing the mark.
“The usual, ‘well it’s the weather,’ I don’t think people are buying that,” he said. “I think in the long run, Frontier needs to change its approach to communications.”
He says the response will resonate with future fliers.
“The brand can recover but they’re not really doing any of the things that you usually do in damage control in order to effectively recover from something like this,” he said.
As of Tuesday, baggage separated from travelers remained piled up at Denver International Airport. The effects of cancellations continued to reverberate for passengers, ahead of the upcoming holidays.