Delta matching Frontier fares to Denver, but low-cost carrier likes Cincinnati response so far

Frontier fares spark quick response from Delta

CINCINNATI - It didn't take long for Delta Air Lines Inc. to match Frontier Airlines' fares to Denver, but a spokeswoman for the low-cost carrier says Frontier is still "meeting expectations" in the Cincinnati market.

Frontier made a big splash Jan. 28, when it announced six weekly nonstop flights to Denver at rates as low as $99 each way. The Denver-based airline is the first low-cost carrier in years to set up shop at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in Hebron, Ky., once a fortress hub for Atlanta-based Delta.

Some local travel agents have predicted Delta would lower fares enough to make Frontier's new service unsustainable. So, they were mildly concerned when Delta's rates fell within days of Frontier's announcement.

"I would be thrilled if they could sustain it because it's a good airline," said Vicky Mary, president of Victoria Travel in Cincinnati's Hyde Park neighborhood. She'd bet against Frontier's survival at CVG but adds, "I lose bets all the time."

A flight search at Orbitz.com this afternoon showed Delta's one-way fare to Denver is priced at $294 on May 15, two days before Frontier's first-scheduled Cincinnati flight. Two days after, Delta is offering a one-way trip to Delta at $109.

That tracks Delta's response in the past when low-cost carriers have tried to make a go of it at CVG. Each time the newcomer has foundered after Delta lowered its fares on the competing routes and customers then abandoned the low-cost carrier in favor of Delta's fares and perks, like frequent flyer points

Frontier spokeswoman Kate O'Malley wasn't surprised at Delta's move, saying airlines typically respond when the low-cost airline enters a market.

"It's healthy competition," she said. "We are meeting expectations, as far as bookings go."

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