The Little Chase the Middle: America’s “Little Three” ultra-LCCs find neglected midsized markets to their liking

The Little Chase the Middle: America’s “Little Three” ultra-LCCs find neglected midsized markets to their likingNo longer attractive to the Big Three, several midsized U.S. cities are getting attention from the Little Three—in other words, the three ultra-LCCs, Spirit, Frontier and Allegiant, which are all growing their ASM capacity by double digits.

Delta, for example, no longer finds Cincinnati so attractive. The airline still considers it a hub, with nonstop service to more than 40 cities, including Paris. But that’s a shadow of the 70-plus cities it offered at the onset of this decade, not to mention the 600 daily departures to 140 cities a decade ago, according to Diio Mi. Recognizing a vacuum, Frontier is now rushing in with flights to five large markets: Dallas/Fort Worth (for family visits and perhaps some business traffic) and four leisure hotspots: two in Florida (Orlando and Fort Lauderdale) and two in the American West (Las Vegas and Phoenix). Frontier already connects Cincinnati with Cancún, Punta Cana and Washington Dulles.

Allegiant also sees opportunity in Cincinnati. It first showed up there in February and now flies to Myrtle Beach, S.C., plus Orlando Sanford, Tampa/St. Petersburg and Punta Gorda (near Sarasota and Fort Myers). This fall, it will add frequencies to those three Florida airports and another: Fort Lauderdale. It will add Phoenix Mesa and Las Vegas too. Since February, Allegiant has ramped up its Cincinnati schedule from four flights per week to 20, making it “the fastest growing origination market in Allegiant’s 15-year history.” Indeed, these seven routes are more than it offers from any other of its so-called “origination cities” (those other than its big leisure destination bases like Las Vegas and Orlando). Allegiant even signed a sponsorship deal with the Cincinnati Bengals football team.

Does Delta care? Probably not much. A few of these new Frontier and Allegiant routes overlap with its own flying from Cincinnati, but most are flown only a few times per week and in some cases just during peak seasons. And Delta, when making its cuts, surely calculated…

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