Frontier's Daniel Shurz on Southwest's AirTran acquisition and how key Denver is to his airline

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A Frontier Airlines statement about Southwest's bid to acquire AirTran didn't include any reference to Denver. But Daniel Shurz, Frontier's vice president of strategy and planning, stresses that the Mile High City's very much in the forefront of the carrier's plans. "Denver is 76, 77 percent of the Frontier network today," he says. "It's the most important part of this network, and the one we're most focused on making work."

In Shurz's view, the Southwest-AirTran team-up will have only a "small impact" in Denver, at least in the immediate future. Right now, he says, Southwest has 144 daily weekday departures from Denver, while AirTran has five. However, AirTran offers non-stop flights to Milwaukee and Atlanta, as does Frontier -- so the level of competition could increase there, but only marginally.

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Daniel Shurz.
"Whatever Southwest does in Denver it could probably have done with or without an AirTran merger," Shurz believes. "Southwest has grown aggressively in Denver since arriving in 2006. They've committed a lot of resources, and we've obviously learned to live with them. And we have various pieces of differentiation with them."

For instance, he continues, "we serve over sixty destinations non-stop from Denver, and Southwest has under forty. We fly to a lot more places," including such relatively recent additions to the Frontier roster as Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska, plus six destinations in Mexico and a pair in Costa Rica. "And the differentiation happens domestically, too. We fly to Madison, Wisconsin, Fort Myers in Florida -- and we're adding Des Moines."

The Southwest-Frontier scrap "has been very good for consumers," Shurz feels. "It forces us to be more nimble and creative. In a literal sense, United is a bigger competitor than Southwest. There's a far greater route network overlap with United than with Southwest in Denver. But from a retail consumer perspective, Southwest is the aggressive marketer in the market."

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