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Frontier Airlines CEO hopes air traffic controller shortage won’t sink summer travel

Frontier Airlines CEO Barry Biffle said Monday that the air traffic controller shortage could cause issues during the summer travel season if staffing issues aren’t addressed.

Biffle appeared on FOX Business Network’s “The Claman Countdown” and told guest host Ashley Webster that while technology can help address the issue while also promoting greater efficiencies in air travel over the longer term, the air traffic controller shortage contributes to delays and cancelations.

“There’s opportunities to improve the technology that is kind of the backbone of air traffic control,” Biffle said. “If you look to Europe, for example, there are some opportunities that we could adopt here that would be much more efficient — you’d burn a lot less fuel, get there faster and so forth. That is a big opportunity.

“At the same time, it doesn’t negate the issue that I think we’re 3,000 controllers short right now. And so that just causes, when you have a weather event, it just causes there to be more delays,” he explained. “And ultimately, like we’ve seen the last few days, those delays then turn into cancelations because crews time out and so forth. Would really like to see the staffing get fixed. The technology is probably a longer solution.”

FRONTIER AIRLINES ELIMINATES CHANGE FEES AS BIDEN ADMIN CRACKS DOWN ON TRANSPARENT PRICING

Frontier Airlines

Frontier Airlines CEO Barry Biffle said the air traffic controller shortage poses a risk to travel season. (DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images / Getty Images)

Biffle was also asked about the pilot shortage and said that it “appears to have stalled” and added, “In fact, now you’re seeing the complaints of folks that were becoming an airline pilot very quickly, and now they’re getting back up and having to go down the general aviation path for a while.”

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ULCCFRONTIER GROUP HOLDINGS6.10+0.18+3.04%

He went on to describe it as a “normalization of pilot hiring” after the shortage had been “building up for decades” before the industry was disrupted by the COVID pandemic and there was a wave of early retirements among airline pilots.

“It would appear now we have largely gotten past that, and I think the best thing you can point to is the regional airlines are now getting staff back, which tells you all you need to know that the shortage is not there, and I think that’s great for consumers too,” Biffle said.

FRONTIER AIRLINES REVEALS ‘EMPTY MIDDLE SEAT’ EXTRA-COST OPTION ON FLIGHTS

Frontier Airlines CEO Barry Biffle

President and CEO of Frontier Airlines, Barry Biffle attends The Future of Everything presented by the Wall Street Journal at Spring Studios in New York City on May 17, 2022.  (Steven Ferdman/Getty Images / Getty Images)

Biffle also discussed Frontier’s move last week to drop its $99 fee for changing or canceling a flight, which he said will help the budget carrier offer the most competitive total price for consumers.

“We’ve been talking to our customers for a while, and we have always been trusted to have the lowest fare, but we weren’t always the lowest in total price when you looked at bags and seats and other options,” he said. 

“So we took the bold step to change our pricing model, and we’ve come up with four options to choose from: basic, economy, premium and our business options,” Biffle explained. “We believe that you’re going to find the lowest total price, not just the lowest fare, so customers are really going to like this, and we’re making some other changes too to not just win you with total price, but to win you with great service as well.”

A Frontier Airlines employee

A Frontier Airlines employee helps customers check in at the Denver International Airport.  (Kathryn Scott Osler/The Denver Post via Getty Images / Getty Images)

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“We’re only a couple of days in, but customers are loving it. That’s why we called it ‘The New Frontier,’ and I think we had gone too far in what we charged for bags and seats, and I think this kind of opens us up to a new amount of clientele. But we’re seeing good results. It’s exceeding expectations for sure,” he added.

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