Once upon a time, at a little airport in Ohio, a very cool airline with spokesanimals and LiveTV, set up shop. Griz, Foxy, Jack and the entire wild bunch landed at CAK in 2006. They brought low fares and the promise to open up the west to our community.
Frontier was an important partner for us. Until their arrival, our westbound options were slim. Some connections were available over various hubs but nothing that would really go west.
Up until that point, we had a very successful partnership with AirTran but their focus was on Florida and the east coast. Frontier was a natural fit going west.
As folklore would have it, Akron-Canton Airport was the first Ohio airport in the Frontier network. You see, their planning department saw what AirTran was able to accomplish here and thought they could stimulate traffic in a similar way, and boy were they right.
Although the year was challenging (building their brand and getting business travelers to try them), we stuck with it- working together to stimulate demand and ridership to markets like Denver (nonstop), Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Phoenix. After executing a year-long marketing and brand campaign and gorilla style sales strategy, these cities became top 15 destinations for us.
We had a great ride for six and a half years. Through their bankruptcy and acquisition by Republic Holdings, soaring oil prices and then the great recession, we pulled out of it all, intact and stronger than ever.
Recently, despite a 93% annual load factor, Frontier decided to pull their CAK service. Stiff competition from Southwest Airlines at CAK to Denver and Chicago surely played a role in their decision.
I am sad to see them go. Over the years, I had the privilege of working with dozens of dynamic, passionate Frontier teammates (many have moved on to other places, but their Frontier roots still live on) including- Paul Tate, Joe Cambron, Matt Barbiari, Dianne Willman, Julie James, Andrea Toller, Cliff Van Leuven, and Bob Westgate.
Each one was passionate about making our partnership thrive. It was a blast! Thanks for your faith and partnership over the years.
So now, we are blessed that such a robust westbound market exists at CAK. Southwest Airlines, our newest airline partner and a key to our future, now benefits from the stimulation and cultivation of passenger traffic by Frontier.
Southwest offers exceptional nonstop flights to Denver and Chicago but that’s just the beginning. From Denver or Chicago, our Customers can connect to all of the west bound destinations they love and then some. And because it is Southwest, we know the flights will be affordable.
So, though we are very sad to see a very successful six and a half year partnership with Frontier come to an end, we are thrilled about our future with Southwest Airlines.
One of my favorite quotes by storyteller Robert Brault, regarding death and survival, is this: "So often the end of a love affair is death by a thousand cuts, so often its survival is life by a thousand stitches." Cuts and stitches. We will prevail and serve our region with low fares and a great airport experience, despite the cuts and because of the stitches. Here’s to hoping the new story with Southwest is a big and bold adventure as well.