weather icon Partly Cloudy

Frontier Airlines CEO ready to help tourists return to Las Vegas

Updated May 12, 2020 - 12:50 pm

With tourism at a standstill in Las Vegas, Frontier Airlines plans to help promote visitation to the city once the resort corridor begins to reopen.

McCarran International Airport’s fifth-busiest carrier, according to March data, is all in to help bring travelers back to Southern Nevada once the Gaming Control Board approves resort properties’ plans for reopening.

Frontier President and CEO Barry Biffle made a quick stop in Las Vegas on Monday, meeting with resort and travel partners to talk about how they will reopen Las Vegas and how Frontier can help.

“The No. 1 thing I think people are looking for today is to make sure that all of us in the travel community are keeping them safe,” Biffle told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “At Frontier we’re doing everything we can to keep them safe on board and when they travel. Once they get here (Las Vegas), the hotels and casinos and all the restaurants are going to have to do their part to make sure that consumers feel safe and that they won’t contract coronavirus when they’re having their experience.

“Unless we keep people safe, we can’t get them to come back to Vegas. If we can’t get them to come back to Vegas, we’re going to have unemployment for a long time. So, we’re just trying to do our part to get the economy back going.”

Frontier has taken a layered approach to its safety protocols, starting with HEPA filtration systems and increased cleaning and sanitation measures. It also was among the first airlines in the U.S. to require masks for passengers, and it plans to add thermal testing of passengers and customers beginning June 1.

“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.

Various resort groups have been rolling out their safety plans, with Wynn Resorts, Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts International already putting out their reopening blueprints.

Although Frontier is the first carrier at McCarran to announce temperature requirements (anyone with a 100.4 temperature or above won’t be allowed to fly or work), Biffle said the Transportation Security Administration should take the lead on the safety measure.

“We would love for TSA and the airports to do it (temperature check),” he said. “We think it should be done at the curb. Unfortunately, we can’t catch everybody at the different entrances; it’s not our property, either. What we can do is guarantee that once you get on board our aircraft no one is going to have a fever on board.”

With air travel taking a huge hit because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Frontier’s passenger volume in Las Vegas saw an 11 percent decrease in March compared with March 2019, and a larger drop is expected when April data is released this month by the Clark County Department of Aviation.

Frontier received $200 million in federal payroll support that will go toward ensuring it can pay its employees as passenger volume remains down. The airline also applied for up to $500 million in federal loans that it is awaiting a decision on.

“About $170 million of it is a grant that covers roughly half of our payroll for about six months, which saved the government from having to do unemployment if we were to lay anyone off,” Biffle said.

Biffle didn’t want to speculate on the pandemic’s possible long-term effects on the airline, instead preferring to focus on the near term and bringing back business to the nation’s skies.

“We’re focused on getting the economy back going and get people back traveling,” he said. “I know a lot of people are talking about having to downsize and so forth, and I think all of us in Las Vegas and Frontier … need to do our part to get the economy back going so we don’t have to make some tough decisions.”

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Business Videos
Status of renters and homeowners during COVID19 pandemic - Video
Rj reporter Eli Segall discusses how COVID19 is affecting renters and homeowners in Nevada. (Renee Summerour/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Health experts: Smoking in casinos should be banned - Video
Experts say smoking can spread the COVID-19 coronavirus. But not because of airborne particulates. The virus could spread from a smoker’s likely pattern of fingers-to-mouth-to-gaming-device. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Knights’ empathy questioned
A sports talk host called this week a public relations disaster for the Knights and a tourism official said it may shorten the honeymoon period between the team and its devoted fan base.
Chinese visitors in Las Vegas - Video
There were 236,970 visitors from China in Las Vegas in 2018, according to data from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Resorts World Las Vegas lights up - Video
Construction crews tested exterior lights at Resorts World on the Las Vegas Strip, May 19. (David Guzman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Station Casinos releases health and safety plan for reopening - Video
Station Casinos rolled out new health and safety protocols Monday morning, May 18, including the use of thermal scanners, testing all employees for COVID-19 and “enhanced cleaning technologies.” (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Maverick Helicopters offers 250 free tours for two - VIDEO
Maverick Helicopters will restart its flights on Friday, according to a news release. To celebrate, Maverick will give away 250 flights for two with its “Our Vegas” promotion. (James Schaffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts to bring back free parking on Las Vegas Strip - VIDEO
MGM Resorts on Monday announced free parking for all guests at its Strip resorts for the foreseeable future. New York-New York and Bellagio are the first announced hotels to reopen for casino business and return to the golden days of no-cost parking.
Laughlin’s iconic Colorado Belle to stay closed indefinitely - VIDEO
The Colorado Belle, an iconic hotel-casino on the Colorado River in Laughlin, will stay closed for the foreseeable future and lay off its 400 workers. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Laughlin’s iconic Colorado Belle to stay closed indefinitely; 400 to lose jobs - VIDEO
The Colorado Belle, an iconic hotel-casino on the Colorado River in Laughlin, will stay closed for the foreseeable future and lay off its 400 workers.
MSG Sphere construction site remains dormant - Video
The MSG Sphere at The Venetian construction site remains sidelined and representatives of MSG Entertainment offered no updates on when workers might return. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada Gaming Control Board keeping reopening plans confidential
The state Gaming Control Board requires every licensee, from the megaresorts to the corner gas station convenience store slot machine operators, to submit reopening plans, but they intend to keep them confidential.
Natural turf added to Allegiant Stadium field tray
The massive field tray, which will roll in and out of the stadium, has a fresh layer of natural grass turf for Raiders home games.
Players show up at Gila River Casino in Arizona - Video
Gila River Casino at Wild Horse Pass in Chandler, Arizona, is packed with players on the casino’s reopening day, Friday, May 15, 2020. (Elizabeth BrumleyLas Vegas Review-Journal)
Casinos reopening in Phoenix area - Video
Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino reopened in Maricopa, Arizona, on Friday, May 15, 2020. It was closed during the government shutdown for coronavirus. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Caesars Entertainment to phase In reopenings - Video
Caesars Entertainment, the operator of Caesars Palace and eight other Las Vegas resorts, on Monday announced it would phase in reopenings with a comprehensive safety and health plan with employees wearing masks across its network of properties. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada Gaming Commission meeting
Full meeting of the Nevada Gaming Commission on Thursday, May 7, 2020.
Sisolak says businesses will begin reopening under phase 1 - VIDEO
The first phase of reopening Nevada’s businesses will begin Saturday, May 9, Gov. Steve Sisolak said Thursday. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Henderson winery reacts to Sisolak's economic plan - VIDEO
Governor Sisolak's reopening plan is easier said than done for the only winery in Clark County. Grape Expectations is trying to figure out how to open up shop when they are three businesses in one. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Southwest requiring face coverings
In an effort to increase safety for passengers and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, Southwest Airlines is updating protocols that include requiring passengers to wear face coverings beginning May 11.
Locals rush to reopened tennis courts
Daniel Nunez and Sarah Germain made immediate plans to go to their local tennis court, Darling Tennis Center, when they received an email that the facility would open on May 1.
Businesses in Henderson begin reopening - VIDEO
In downtown Henderson and at The District at Green Valley Ranch, small shops are opening their doors for business. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM CEO: Bellagio, New York-New York to reopen first after shutdown - VIDEO
The head of MGM Resorts International isn’t sure when he’ll be able to open properties in Las Vegas, but said Thursday that New York-New York and Bellagio will likely be the first to open their doors. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New visitation report shows plunging numbers for March
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reported Thursday that convention attendance fell 54.8 percent to 249,800. March normally is one of the city’s strongest months for conventions and trade shows.
US jobless claims climb to 30 million in 6 weeks - VIDEO
The Labor Department released the tally of the most recent jobless claims on Thursday. First-time claims for the week ending on April 25 increased by more than 3.84 million. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Venetian to have EMTs, thermal cameras upon reopening - VIDEO
The hotel-casino operator, Las Vegas Sands Corp., announced updated protocols on April 28 for when its Las Vegas properties reopen, sometime after May 31. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Unions contracts expiring - VIDEO
RJ investigations reporter Arthur Kane and Renee Summerour discuss the uncertainty of union contracts expiring in June, and how the extent of the financial damage from the crisis will make it difficult for unions and governments to negotiate collective bargaining agreements, possibly sending many to arbitration. (Renee Summerour/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Strip hoteliers outline cleaning plans upon reopening - VIDEO
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak has yet to confirm when casinos will be able to reopen, but operators are already preparing for the day they’ll have to reassure guests their properties are clean and safe amid the virus outbreak. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Treasure Island plans to reopen May 15 - VIDEO
Treasure Island is planning to open its doors to guests May 15, despite Gov. Steve Sisolak saying Wednesday that gaming shutdowns, currently set to end April 30, will probably be extended an undetermined amount of time. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Raiders logo goes up on Henderson headquarters - VIDEO
The iconic Raiders emblem gets installed on the team's headquarters and practice facility in Henderson on April 22, 2020. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Will Las Vegas casinos’ safety plans help lure back visitors?

Experts say the transparency is just another way companies can reassure guests and employees that their facilities are safe enough to return to. But, ultimately, only the number of people who end up inside the reopened resorts will show whether that reassurance is enough.