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Frontier Airlines (1950–1986)

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Frontier Airlines (1950–1986)

Frontier Airlines
Frontier's final logo designed by Saul Bass in 1978.
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded 1950
Ceased operations 1986
Hubs Stapleton International Airport (Denver)
Focus cities
Fleet size 60
Destinations 94
Headquarters Denver, Colorado
Key people Ray Wilson
Hal Darr
Bud Maytag
Lew Dymond
Al Feldman
Glen Ryland

Frontier Airlines was a United States airline formed by a merger of Arizona Airways, Challenger Airlines, and Monarch Airlines on June 1, 1950. It was headquartered at Stapleton Airport in Denver. The airline ceased operations on August 24, 1986. In 1994, a new airline was founded using the Frontier Airlines name.


The original Frontier Airlines dates to November 27, 1946, when Monarch Airlines began service in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona. Frontier Airlines served cities in the Rocky Mountains bounded by Salt Lake City to the west, Billings to the north, Denver to the east, and Phoenix and El Paso to the south. In 1950 it flew to 40 cities in the Rocky Mountain region with 12 Douglas DC-3s and 400 employees. Before ceasing operations on August 24, 1986 it flew to more than 170 airports at one time or another, coast to coast and also to Canada and Mexico.[1]

Revenue Passenger-Miles[2] (Millions); sched flights only
Frontier Central
1951 27 5
1955 46 15
1960 88 32
1965 217 91
1970 1022 (merged 1967)
1975 1455

Frontier continued to operate Douglas DC-3s and added Convair CV-340s beginning in 1959; the company introduced a new logo on the new aircraft. On June 1, 1964 it was the first airline to fly the Convair 580, a CV-340/440 retrofitted with GM Allison turboprops. It had 50 seats, was flown by two pilots and carried one flight attendant. (The aircraft could have carried 53 passengers, but that would have required a second flight attendant.) The CV-580 was the workhouse of the Frontier fleet until the introduction of the Boeing 737-200s in the early 1970s. In later years de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter and Beech 99 turboprops were added to serve destinations deemed too small in terms of passenger traffic for the Convair 580.[1]

In May 1958 Frontier flew to 40 airports; two years later it flew to 69. Half the additions had never seen an airline and several never would again, after Frontier pulled out. In May 1968, after merging with Central Airlines, Frontier flew to 100 airports, second place among US airlines (first was Pan Am with 122 airports).

In April 1958 Lewis Bergman "Bud" Maytag, Jr. (grandson of Frederick Louis Maytag I founder of the Maytag Corporation[3]) acquired controlling interest in Frontier. After all governmental approvals, he took control in January, 1959 as chairman of the board and president. Three years later Maytag sold his stock in March 1962 to the Goldfield Corp. Lewis W. Dymond then became president of Frontier and, under his guidance, the airline entered the jet age with new Boeing 727-100s on September 30, 1966. The Boeing trijet was called the "Arrow-Jet" by the airline. The Boeing 727-200 became part of the fleet in February, 1968.[1]

On October 1, 1967 Frontier purchased Central Airlines, headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas. The addition of Central added eleven Convair 600s and sixteen DC-3s to the fleet and many new cities. Central's Convair 600s were Convair 240s that had been retrofitted with Rolls-Royce Dart turboprops. Frontier eventually phased out the Convair 600s but continued to use its Convair 580s until May 31, 1982 when they were parked and eventually sold.[1]

Frontier Airlines Boeing 737-200 N7382F.

Al Feldman became president in March 1971 and converted the jet fleet to Boeing 737-200s, eliminating the 727s. The 737-200 was Frontier's only jet until McDonnell Douglas MD-80s were added beginning May 20, 1982.[1]

On January 29, 1973 Frontier Airlines hired its first black pilot, Bob Ashby. Ashby was the only Tuskegee Airman to become a commercial passenger airline pilot. It also hired the first female pilot for any modern day U.S. commercial airline the same day, Emily Howell Warner. Both were awarded their captain's wings several years later.[1]

The final Frontier logo, a stylized "F", was created by Saul Bass and introduced April 30, 1978. By 1979, the airline had 5,100 employees and operated 35 Boeing 737–200 and 25 Convair 580 aircraft serving 94 cities in 26 states, Canada and Mexico.[1]

On February 1, 1980 Al Feldman, Frontier's president, left to become the CEO of Continental Airlines. He was succeeded by Glen Ryland. Under Ryland, the airline started to decline. By 1982, employees began accepting lower wages and benefits in an effort to keep the business viable. Ryland resigned November 6, 1984, and was replaced by M.C. "Hank" Lund, the well-known vice president. Joe O'Gorman, from United Airlines, took over in May 1985, giving rise to speculation that United would buy Frontier.[1]

Once the last of the Convair 580's were retired, Frontier became an all-jet airline on June 1, 1982 operating 737's at some of their smallest cities such as Montrose, CO, and Laramie and Riverton, WY. By the fall of 1983 however some Convair 580's were revived when an agreement was made with Combs Airways to form a feeder service for Frontier called Frontier Commuter. This carrier began service on October 17, 1983 to some of the Frontier cities that were too small to support 737's plus added new service to several cities that Frontier didn't fly to such as Idaho Falls and Pocatello, ID, Gillette and Sheridan, WY, and Pierre and Aberdeen, SD. Frontier Commuter was short lived however and shut down on January 14, 1985 ending Frontier representation to all the cities it flew to.

In January, 1984 Boeing 727-100s made a short-lived reappearance when Frontier created a wholly owned "airline within an airline" low cost subsidiary: Frontier Horizon. Its formation was bitterly opposed by Frontier Airlines employees. Boeing 727s formerly operated by American Airlines flew nonstop from Denver to New York La Guardia Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, Chicago O'Hare International Airport and San Francisco International Airport. Frontier Horizon ceased operations in April, 1985.[1]

The employees' union coalition struggled to save the airline but failed. People Express Airlines acquired Frontier on October 5, 1985, and put Larry Martin in charge after Joe O'Gorman resigned on January 29, 1986. People Express continued operating Frontier as an independent entity. On August 24, 1986, Frontier shut down due to continued losses and four days later filed for bankruptcy.[1]

On October 24, 1986 Continental Airlines, a Texas Air Corp. unit, acquired People Express Airlines which as mentioned above had acquired Frontier Airlines the year before. Both merged into Continental on February 1, 1987, along with New York Air and several commuter airline subsidiaries. Frontier's failure doomed People Express, New York Air, and four commuter air carriers. It would take years to settle the pension disputes and lawsuits. Efforts were still being made in 2013 to settle ESOP accounts. Continental continued to operate the former Frontier jet fleet with the aircraft being repainted in Continental's livery.[1]

Frontier's last timetable was dated September 3, 1986; the airline had halted operations and filed bankruptcy the week before. Some bankruptcy proceedings ended on May 31, 1990, forty years after Frontier was formed, but the Chapter 11 case was closed July 22, 1998, by Charles E. Matheson, Chief Judge.[1]

M. C. "Hank" Lund and other former Frontier executives went on to start a new airline, also named Frontier Airlines, which began Boeing 737 flights on July 5, 1994.[1]

During its 36 years Frontier Airlines flew to over 170 airports (not at any one time). Many no longer have airline service.



Frontier flew to the following destinations between 1950 and 1986. Destinations in bold received jet service.[4]

The above information is taken from various Frontier Airlines system timetables.


  • Jake Lamkins, "Old Frontier Airlines website".
  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m
  2. ^ Handbook of Airline Statistics (biannual CAB publication)
  3. ^
  4. ^ Frontier Airlines jet routes maps, March 2, 1977 through Sept. 3, 1986

External links

  • Old Frontier Airlines
  • A Photo Website of the "original" Frontier Airlines
  • [1] Airline timetables from 1947 to 1962
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