Frontier Airlines expansion could be good news for Wyo air travelers


Big news for Wyoming! Frontier Airlines merges with Spirit Airlines. Really?

Once upon a time, this would have been big news. But lately, neither Frontier nor Spirit have any flights in or out of the Cowboy State.

But it is still a big deal since that merged airline is based out of Denver, just a stone’s throw from our capital city and an obviously choice for a great many Wyoming fliers.

Both Frontier and Spirit are known as cheap, no-frills airlines. I call them the “lawn chair airlines” because the seats are so small, so hard, and so uncomfortable. 

Do you want legroom? Sure, they will sell you a few more inches of space. Want to check your bags? Sure, for a price. Do you want to carry on a bag, no problem — just keep the credit card handy.

I am always amazed as how a low price $69 fare on one of these cheap airlines can balloon up to $200, about the same as United or Southwest. Oh well.

Wyoming old-timers have lots of stories to tell about Frontier Airlines. It was the major airline for the Cowboy State for almost half a century. And with its current 24-year history of being headquartered in neighboring Denver, proximity counts.

My history with Frontier goes back over a half a century. Our first trip to Wyoming was in August of 1970 and was on a huge Convair 580, jet prop.

Their routes were known as “milk runs” because, much like the neighborhood milkman, who stopped by every house, the plane left Denver and seemingly stopped at Cheyenne, Laramie, Rawlins, Riverton, and on to Casper, Cody, and Sheridan. Their reservation system somehow kept track of passengers getting on and off at all the various destinations.

Folks complained about this service and yet, this might have been the best service in the history of the state. The planes were big, the seats were comfortable, there was even a friendly stewardess shepherding people in and out of the plane at all those various stops.

Airline service to rural states like Wyoming were subsidized by the federal government. That went away with deregulation back in the 1980s and everything changed.

The original Frontier Airlines went bankrupt in 1986. Before that happened, at one time, we could board a 737 jet for a once-daily flight out of Riverton to Denver. It was super comfortable but not so reliable. If you missed your flight you got in your car and drove to Denver.

The original Frontier was founded in 1950 and went out of business in 1986. A new airline was founded in 1994 and took the name Frontier. Their logo and tails featuring animals was a wonderful marketing ploy. This airline still had a tumultuous history until its owners converted it into a cheap, no-frills airline in 2014. 

Spirit was founded in 1992 in Boston. In recent years, it was a low-frills competitor to Frontier. It is very logical that they merge to form the country’s fifth largest airline behind Delta, America, United, and Southwest.

Wyoming has a big history with commercial airlines. United Airlines was originally based in Cheyenne. It was originally known as Boeing Air Transport which was founded by William Boeing. He also founded the aircraft manufacturing company of the same name. As he bought more and more small airlines, they all came under the umbrella of United.

The first Boeing Air Transport flight that featured a stewardess landed in Cheyenne in 1930. Ultimately United’s stewardess school was established in Cheyenne in 1947 and operated there for almost two decades. 

The flight attendant school for United remained in Cheyenne for a long time after the airline moved on to Chicago. Wyoming suddenly became a magnet for attractive young women from across the USA who wanted to fly the friendly skies.

There is a side door into the downtown Plains Hotel in Cheyenne called Peacock Plaza where men who could ogle the young women hanging out there, who were attending the stewardess school.

An excellent book about those early stewardess days is “Wyoming’s Friendly Skies: Training America’s First Stewardesses” by Starley Talbott and Michael Kassel.

Besides its obvious main topic, the book is a history of commercial aviation in the United States. Lots of good material there with most of it occurring in the Cowboy State.

We were just reminded that Frontier has been training flight attendants in Cheyenne in recent years. Plus, that airline flies seasonally into Jackson.

So, Wyoming’s history with Frontier continues. Glad to see it.

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