On Monday, Frontier Airlines President and CEO Barry Biffle dropped into Las Vegas to meet with resort and travel partners. The goal? Figuring out the best way that the airline, which is McCarran International Airport’s fifth-largest carrier, can help bring in visitation once the Gaming Control Board approves the reopening of casinos.
Biffle argues that if the airline can’t keep passengers safe, they won’t be able to get those passengers to Las Vegas. And if they can’t get tourists into Las Vegas, unemployment is going to happen for a long time. Frontier is trying to do its part to reignite the economy.
Making sure passengers have confidence in air travel again will be instrumental in getting them back on board. Frontier plans to do this by taking a layered approach to new safety protocols amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Frontier’s Safety Protocols
Those protocols begin with HEPA filtration systems and ramping up specific cleaning and sanitation measures. HEPA, which stands for high-efficiency particulate air, is a mechanical air filter that works by trapping harmful particles in the air, such as pollen, pet dander, tobacco smoke, and dust mites in a fine mesh filter.
These filters are highly effective and are able to trap 99.97 percent of harmful particles. This makes this type of filter the ideal choice in helping to battle the airborne virus, especially with a given number of passengers on a plane for hours at a time.
The Denver-based airline was also the second airline carrier, following budget carrier JetBlue’s announcement, to require passengers to wear mandatory masks starting May 8. Flight crews were required to wear face coverings since April 13.
Beginning June 1, the company also plans to add thermal testing of passengers and customers. It’s McCarran Airport’s first carrier to announce the temperature requirement. Anyone who is found to have a temperature at or above 100.4 degrees will not be allowed to fly, which includes passengers and flight staff.
“This layered approach, coupled with the temperature measurement we’re going to do in a few weeks, we believe is what people need to feel safe,” Biffle said.
Biffle thinks the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and airports should conduct the temperature checks, with them preferably done at the curb although he admitted that it would be difficult to catch all passengers at the entrance. Biffle does guarantee one thing though, and that’s that no one aboard their aircraft will have a fever.
Frontier’s “More Room” Seating Option
As if those protocols were not enough, for flights departing May 8 through August 31, Frontier’s is even offering a “More Room” seating option.
That option will allow passengers on Frontier Airlines flights to pay an extra fee in order to keep the middle seat of their row unoccupied during the flight, which aligns most closely with the CDC’s social distancing guidelines of staying six feet apart from other people.
Each flight will have 18 “More Room” seats available. The cost for the seating option will be $39 per passenger.
Frontier joins a list of other airlines who started offering similar accommodations amid the pandemic, including Delta Airlines, who began blocking seats off back in April at no cost to passengers, and American Airlines who are leaving 50 percent of their middle seats empty in the main cabin of their airlines, unless it’s necessary to fill those seats
Frontier’s Passenger Volume Decreases by 11 Percent in March 2020
With the COVID-19 pandemic rocking the world, and particularly the air travel industry, it’s no surprise that many airlines saw a decrease in passenger volume. Frontier’s passenger volume, for one, saw an 11 percent decrease in March 2020 when compared with passenger volume from March 2019.
The carrier expects to see an even bigger decrease for their April 2020 numbers once the Clark County Department of Aviation reveals that data this month.
Frontier Receives Federal Payroll Support
To help the airline support its employees with air travel taking the massive hit that it has, Frontier received a hefty $200 million in federal payroll support. The company also applied for up to $500 million in federal loans, with a decision on that still pending.
According to Biffle, $170 million of that amount is a grant that would cover nearly half of the airline’s payroll costs for at least six months. This, in turn, helped the government, since they didn’t have to shell out unemployment in the event that Frontier laid off a large number of its staff.
Bringing Business Back to the Skies
Biffle is choosing to think optimistically and in the near future. He says the airline’s ultimate goal right now is creating the safest flying environment so that business can return to the nation’s skies.
Biffle understands how deeply air travel is tied to a healthy economy, especially the Las Vegas economy. If Frontier can safely get passengers to touch down in McCarran Airport, that’s the first major step. The rest lies in the hands of the casino operators to ensure that their properties are safe for these tourists to return to.
If Frontier and Las Vegas can work together on that front, it’ll be good news for the economy as a whole.
Casino Operators are Preparing Meticulously for Reopening
Las Vegas casinos, which have been shut down for over two months due to the coronavirus pandemic, are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
With reopening possibly a few weeks away, casino operators are working hard to ensure that their properties will be to the highest level of cleanliness and safety for tourists to return to. They’re doing this by introducing new and advanced levels of safety protocols.
Those protocols, which have been revealed by some major casino operators already, most recently MGM Resorts, include thermal screenings of guests and staff at every casino entrance, requirement all staff members to wear masks and other appropriate personal protective equipment, rearranging casino floors to support social distancing, staff training on COVID-19 and more.
Things in Las Vegas are beginning to move more quickly now. Currently, the state is in Phase 1 of its reopening plan, which allows for retail stores, restaurants, barbershops, hair, and nail salons to resume operations under 50 percent occupancy at each facility.
Phase 1 came sooner than the state expected, predicting a May 15 benchmark to hit the requirement outlined in the plan. Casinos are expected to reopen under Phase 3 or 4 or Gov. Sisolak’s detailed plan, should coronavirus cases and hospitalizations show no spike in the upcoming weeks.
It’s clear that air travel and Las Vegas visitation will be closely linked, so we’re glad to see Frontier’s CEO taking the initiative to make passengers feel as safe and as comfortable as they possibly can in returning to Las Vegas amid the COVID-19 outbreak still in the air.
We hope that tourism will pick back up once Las Vegas reopens, although it will likely take some time for volume to return its pre-coronavirus normal levels.
Do you think passengers will feel safe returning to the skies? Stay tuned for all developments regarding the coronavirus situation in Las Vegas.