Case Study: Frontier Airlines

Customer Insights Reveal Key to Expansion


Frontier Airlines

Frontier was a spill carrier catching traffic primarily from United when United was either too full or too expensive. Frontier had been operating a fleet of 737’s that were older and their pricing model was that of a low fare carrier. They were the second largest carrier in Denver and positioned themselves as The Spirit of the West. They distinguished themselves by having animals on the tail of each airplane. They were a 50% load factor carrier and they were about to make some significant changes. They believed they were Denver's hometown airline and the preferred airline for leisure travel. Frontier was about to sign an agreement with Airbus to purchase a fleet of new 319’s and with that purchase they would also look to install LiveTv. This change required them to take a look at how they accelerate their growth. 


Prior to joining Chief Outsiders, I was hired at Frontier to facilitate this change.

First they needed to understand who the customer was. The internal perception from management was that Frontiers passengers were the infrequent flier and leisure traveler. I led both a qualitative and quantitative research program that led to significant insights. These insights were so different than the perception of the organization I determined I needed to broaden the stakeholders and educate a large number of employees. We had committees of over 300 employees.

Core Insights

Customers looked a lot like United - primarily business frequent travelers and affluent. Consumer perception was friendly and affordable - a big advantage over the competitors.

Awareness was just 45% and all other competitors were in the 80% range and higher. Southwest was at 85% and did not fly to Denver at that time.


We needed to reposition the airline as the new planes arrived and leverage our perceptible advantages. The key would be to create a broad based awareness campaign that educated the consumer about Frontier and their new offerings and increased awareness.

Marketing funds were tight, but for the most part, were being spent ineffectively on the 3 2 week long sales. A common industry practice. I implemented a true retail strategy with 48 hour and 72 hour sales focused on need times and flights. This efficiency in spend freed the money necessary to spend on an awareness campaign that repositioned the company.

We continued to have the committees as this change was significant.


  • A Whole Different Animal was born - finally utilizing the animals on the plane.
  • The new positioning was embraced by all employees (5,000 at the time).
  • Awareness in just 3 months went from 45% to over 80%.
  • Load factors climbed to over 80%.
  • Revenues and fares grew.
  • We were able to establish a robust loyalty program and the most successful launch of an affinity credit card.
  • The campaign won more than 85 Effies.
  • Build a marketing organization from the ground up to accelerate the move to project-based services using marketing as a driver to gain recognition and build a consistent brand.


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