S-1 1 d366312ds1.htm S-1 S-1
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As filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on March 31, 2017

Registration No. 333-            

 

 

 

UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C. 20549

 

 

FORM S-1

REGISTRATION STATEMENT

Under

The Securities Act of 1933

 

 

Frontier Group Holdings, Inc.

(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)

 

 

 

Delaware   4512   46-3681866

(State or other jurisdiction of

incorporation or organization)

 

(Primary Standard Industrial

Classification Code Number)

 

(I.R.S. Employer

Identification Number)

Frontier Center One

7001 Tower Road

Denver, CO 80249

(720) 374-4200

(Address, including zip code, and telephone number, including area code, of registrant’s principal executive offices)

 

 

Barry L. Biffle

President and Chief Executive Officer

Frontier Group Holdings, Inc.

Frontier Center One

7001 Tower Road

Denver, CO 80249

(720) 374-4200

(Name, address, including zip code, and telephone number, including area code, of agent for service)

 

 

Copies to:

 

Anthony J. Richmond, Esq.

Brian D. Paulson, Esq.

Latham & Watkins LLP

140 Scott Drive

Menlo Park, CA 94025

Telephone: (650) 328-4600

Facsimile: (650) 463-2600

 

Howard M. Diamond

General Counsel & Secretary

Frontier Group Holdings, Inc.

Frontier Center One

7001 Tower Road

Denver, CO 80249

Telephone: (720) 374-4200

 

Alan F. Denenberg

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP

1600 El Camino Real

Menlo Park, CA 94025

Telephone: (650) 752-2000

Facsimile: (650) 752-2115

 

 

Approximate date of commencement of proposed sale to the public: As soon as practicable after this Registration Statement becomes effective.

If any of the securities being registered on this Form are to be offered on a delayed or continuous basis pursuant to Rule 415 under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, check the following box.  ☐

If this Form is filed to register additional securities for an offering pursuant to Rule 462(b) under the Securities Act, please check the following box and list the Securities Act registration statement number of the earlier effective registration statement for the same offering.  ☐

If this Form is a post-effective amendment filed pursuant to Rule 462(c) under the Securities Act, check the following box and list the Securities Act registration statement number of the earlier effective registration statement for the same offering.  ☐

If this Form is a post-effective amendment filed pursuant to Rule 462(d) under the Securities Act, check the following box and list the Securities Act registration statement number of the earlier effective registration statement for the same offering.  ☐

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or a smaller reporting company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer” and “smaller reporting company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.

 

Large accelerated filer      Accelerated filer  
Non-accelerated filer   ☒  (Do not check if a smaller reporting company)    Smaller reporting company  

 

 

CALCULATION OF REGISTRATION FEE

 

 

TITLE OF EACH CLASS OF
SECURITIES TO BE REGISTERED
 

PROPOSED

MAXIMUM

AGGREGATE
OFFERING PRICE(1)

 

AMOUNT OF

REGISTRATION FEE

Common Stock, $0.001 par value per share

  $100,000,000   $11,590

 

 

(1) Estimated solely for the purpose of calculating the amount of the registration fee in accordance with Rule 457(o) under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended. Includes the aggregate offering price of additional shares that the underwriters have the option to purchase.

 

 

The Registrant hereby amends this Registration Statement on such date or dates as may be necessary to delay its effective date until the Registrant shall file a further amendment which specifically states that this Registration Statement shall thereafter become effective in accordance with Section 8(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, or until the Registration Statement shall become effective on such date as the Commission, acting pursuant to said Section 8(a), may determine.

 

 

 


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The information in this prospectus is not complete and may be changed. These securities may not be sold until the registration statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission is effective. This preliminary prospectus is not an offer to sell nor does it seek an offer to buy these securities in any jurisdiction where the offer or sale is not permitted.

 

SUBJECT TO COMPLETION, DATED MARCH 31, 2017.

             Shares

 

 

LOGO

Frontier Group Holdings, Inc.

Common Stock

 

 

This is the initial public offering of shares of our common stock. We are offering                  shares. The selling stockholder identified in this prospectus is offering                  shares of our common stock. We will not receive any of the proceeds from the sale of any shares by the selling stockholder.

It is currently estimated that the public offering price per share will be between $         and $        . Currently, no public market exists for our shares. We intend to apply to have our common stock listed on the                     under the symbol “FRNT.”

Investing in our common stock involves risks that are described in the “Risk Factors” section beginning on page 17.

Neither the Securities and Exchange Commission nor any state securities commission nor any other regulatory body has approved or disapproved of these securities or determined if this prospectus is truthful or complete. Any representation to the contrary is a criminal offense.

 

     Per Share      Total  
   $                   $               

Public offering price

     

Underwriting discounts and commissions(1)

     

Proceeds to us (before expenses)

     

Proceeds to the selling stockholder

     

 

(1) See the “Underwriting” section beginning on page 154 for additional information regarding underwriting compensation.

The selling stockholder named herein has granted the underwriters an option to purchase up to             additional shares of common stock, at the initial public offering price, less the underwriting discount, for 30 days from the date of this prospectus. We will not receive any of the proceeds from the sale of shares by the selling stockholder upon any such exercise.

The underwriters expect to deliver the shares to purchasers on or about                 , 2017.

 

 

 

Citigroup   Deutsche Bank Securities   Evercore ISI   J.P. Morgan

 

BofA Merrill Lynch   Barclays   Cowen and Company   Credit Suisse

 

Goldman, Sachs & Co.   Raymond James   UBS Investment Bank

                    , 2017


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LOGO

 

LOW FARES

DONE RIGHT®

Low Fares and a Dependable, Safe, On-Time and Friendly Customer Experience.


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CONTENTS

 

     Page  

SUMMARY

     1  

THE OFFERING

     8  

SUMMARY HISTORICAL CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL AND OPERATING DATA

     10  

OPERATING STATISTICS

     14  

GLOSSARY OF AIRLINE TERMS

     15  

RISK FACTORS

     17  

SPECIAL NOTE REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS

     42  

USE OF PROCEEDS

     44  

DIVIDEND POLICY

     45  

CAPITALIZATION

     46  

DILUTION

     48  

SELECTED CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL AND OPERATING DATA

     50  

OPERATING STATISTICS

     53  

MANAGEMENT’S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF FINANCIAL CONDITION AND RESULTS OF OPERATIONS

     54  

INDUSTRY BACKGROUND

     79  

BUSINESS

     82  

MANAGEMENT

     100  

EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION

     108  

DIRECTOR COMPENSATION

     133  

CERTAIN RELATIONSHIPS AND RELATED TRANSACTIONS

     135  

PRINCIPAL AND SELLING STOCKHOLDER

     136  

DESCRIPTION OF PRINCIPAL INDEBTEDNESS

     139  

DESCRIPTION OF CAPITAL STOCK

     141  

SHARES ELIGIBLE FOR FUTURE SALE

     147  

MATERIAL U.S. FEDERAL INCOME TAX CONSEQUENCES TO NON-U.S. HOLDERS

     150  

UNDERWRITING

     154  

LEGAL MATTERS

     162  

EXPERTS

     162  

WHERE YOU CAN FIND MORE INFORMATION

     162  

INDEX TO FINANCIAL STATEMENTS

     F-1  

We are responsible for the information contained in this prospectus or contained in any free writing prospectus prepared by or on behalf of us to which we have referred you. Neither we, the underwriters, nor the selling stockholder have authorized anyone to provide you with additional information or information different from that contained in this prospectus or in any free writing prospectus filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission and we take no responsibility for any other information that others may give you. We and the selling stockholder are offering to sell, and seeking offers to buy, shares of our common stock only in jurisdictions where offers and sales are permitted. The information contained in this prospectus is accurate only as of the date of this prospectus, regardless of the time of delivery of this prospectus or of any sale of our common stock. Our business, operating results or financial condition may have changed since such date.

Until                     , 2017 (25 days after the date of this prospectus), all dealers that buy, sell, or trade shares of our common stock, whether or not participating in this offering, may be required to deliver a prospectus. This delivery requirement is in addition to the dealer’s obligation to deliver a prospectus when acting as underwriters and with respect to their unsold allotments or subscriptions.

For investors outside the United States: Neither we nor any of the underwriters have taken any action that would permit this offering or possession or distribution of this prospectus in any jurisdiction where action for that purpose is required, other than in the United States. You are required to inform yourselves about and to observe any restrictions relating to this offering and the distribution of this prospectus.

 

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SUMMARY

This summary highlights selected information about us and the common stock being offered by us and the selling stockholder. It may not contain all of the information that is important to you. Before investing in our common stock, you should read this entire prospectus carefully for a more complete understanding of our business and this offering, including our consolidated financial statements and the accompanying notes and the sections entitled “Risk Factors” and “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.”

Overview

Frontier Airlines is an ultra low-cost carrier whose business strategy is focused on Low Fares Done Right®. We offer flights throughout the United States and to select international destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean. Our unique and sustainable strategy is underpinned by our low cost structure and superior ULCC brand. As of December 31, 2016, we operated a fleet of 66 narrow-body Airbus A320 family aircraft, which we expect to grow to 121, including 80 A320neo (New Engine Option) family aircraft, by the end of 2021. In the year ended December 31, 2016, we served approximately 14.9 million passengers across a network of 59 airports.

In December 2013, we were acquired by an investment fund managed by Indigo Partners LLC, or Indigo, an experienced and successful global investor in ultra low-cost carriers, or ULCCs. Following the acquisition, Indigo reshaped our management team to include experienced veterans of the airline industry. Working with Indigo, our management team developed and implemented our unique Low Fares Done Right strategy, which significantly reduced our unit costs, introduced low fares, provided the choice of optional services, enhanced our operational performance and improved the customer experience. Through the implementation of our new operating model, we have positioned our brand as a premier ULCC in the United States and have seen a dramatic improvement to our profitability.

The implementation of Low Fares Done Right has significantly reduced our cost base over the past three years by increasing aircraft utilization, transitioning to larger aircraft, maximizing seat density, renegotiating our distribution agreements, realigning our network, replacing our reservation system, enhancing our website, boosting employee productivity and contracting with specialists to provide us with select operating and other services. As a result of these and other initiatives, we have reduced our CASM (excluding fuel) from 7.89¢ for the year ended December 31, 2013 to 5.74¢ in the year ended December 31, 2016, and our Adjusted CASM (excluding fuel) from 7.89¢ for the year ended December 31, 2013 to 5.43¢ in the year ended December 31, 2016, an improvement of 27% and 31%, respectively. In 2016, this was one of the U.S. industry’s lowest unit operating costs. We believe that we are well positioned to maintain our relatively low unit operating costs through on-going strategic initiatives, including continuing our cost optimization efforts and further realizing economies of scale.

In addition to low unit costs, a key component of our Low Fares Done Right success was establishing Frontier as a premier ULCC in the United States by attracting customers with low fares and garnering repeat business by delivering a high-quality, family-friendly customer experience with a more upscale look and feel than historically experienced on ULCCs globally.

We currently offer flexible optional services through both unbundled and bundled service options. In 2015, we introduced The Works, a hassle-free option that includes a guaranteed seat assignment, carry-on and checked baggage, ticket refundability and changes, and priority boarding, all at an attractive low price and available only on our website. In 2016, we expanded our bundled product offering with The Perks, which enables customers to book the same amenities included in The Works, excluding refundability and ticket changes, through third

 



 

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parties. We operate a customer-friendly digital platform that includes our website and mobile app, which makes booking and travel easy and more enjoyable for our customers. Our brand and product are also family-friendly, featuring popular animals on our aircraft tails, novelty cards for children and amenity packages tailored for families. We reward our repeat customers through our Early Returns frequent flyer program and also offer our Discount Den membership program, which provides subscribers with exclusive access to some of our lowest fares.

Low Fares Done Right differentiates Frontier from the historical ULCC model by providing a dependable and higher quality customer service experience than traditionally offered by such carriers. We pioneered this concept in the United States through our disciplined approach to operational reliability, modern fleet and comfortable cabin seating, including extra seat padding, and our Stretch seating option. Our focus on reliability and service allowed us to achieve the lowest ratio of cancelled flights and the highest percentage of on-time arrivals among the U.S. ULCCs according to the Department of Transportation, or DOT, for the year ended December 31, 2016. This high level of operational performance has led to a reduction in the rate of our customers’ complaints for the year ended December 31, 2016 as compared to 2015, according to DOT data. Our commitment to operational reliability is also reflected in our approach to recruiting, workforce training and employee engagement, which we believe enables us to offer a standardized and predictable travel experience. We believe the association of our brand with a high level of operational performance differentiates us from the other U.S. ULCCs and enables us to generate greater customer loyalty. In addition, as a result of our Low Fares Done Right strategy of distinguishing our service offering from other airlines, including other ULCC airlines, we were able to generate a unit revenue premium over Spirit Airlines, the largest ULCC in the United States, during the year ended December 31, 2016.

The low unit cost, high quality of service and dependability that make Low Fares Done Right successful have enabled us to implement a network strategy that primarily targets high fare or underserved markets, where our low fares stimulate new traffic flows. In addition, we also focus on providing air transportation from medium-sized markets (population between one and 4.7 million) to a wide range of VFR (visiting friends and relatives) and leisure destinations. As of December 2016, we served 28 of the 43 medium-sized markets in the United States, including Denver. Through this network strategy, we have built our current network around flights to and from airports that complement our Denver franchise, including Orlando, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Atlanta, Trenton, Chicago and Phoenix. This current network reflects significant diversification and a proactive effort to reduce our concentration in Denver. We reduced the number of our flights with either an origin or destination in Denver from over 90% as of December 2013 to approximately 45% as of December 2016. The diversification of our network since the beginning of 2014 has enabled us to reduce the impact of seasonality, increase revenue, increase utilization, lower unit costs and enhance profitability in each of 2014, 2015 and 2016.

We believe that our business model, including our focus on medium-sized markets and the use of low fares to stimulate demand, positions us to benefit from significant growth opportunities in the United States. According to the DOT, there were over 500 million domestic passengers in the United States during the 12 months ended September 30, 2016. Of these passengers, over 300 million paid a fare that was at least 30% above our cost basis per passenger during the same period and for the stage length associated with such fares. As a result, we believe that there are a significant number of markets in which we could operate profitably with our low fares, and we believe our entry into such markets could drive substantial passenger volume growth in those markets. For example, according to the DOT, in markets we entered in March and April 2015, industry passenger volumes increased by an average of approximately 41% in the six months ended September 30, 2016 as compared to the same period in 2014.

According to the DOT, the 25-year (1991 to 2016) compound annual growth rate for domestic passenger traffic in the United States was approximately 2.1%. Based on this information, we believe that over the next 25 years, low fare offerings, such as those offered by ULCCs, could stimulate growth for over 850 additional narrow

 



 

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body aircraft covering over 2,000 domestic and international routes we can serve with A320 family aircraft. Of these routes, we believe there is an opportunity for over 650 new routes from medium-sized markets in the United States. As an additional indication of potential domestic passenger growth in North America, Boeing’s “2016 Current Market Outlook” estimated that 2,620 new narrow body aircraft (net of retirements) would be added in North America by 2035, resulting in a total of 6,630 narrow body aircraft in operation.

Similarly, in Europe where the ULCC operating strategy is more mature, ULCCs have driven substantial increases in passenger volumes. Over the 15-year period from 2000 to 2014, according to World Bank and public filings of other carriers, total passenger volumes in Europe had a compound annual growth rate of approximately 4%, of which approximately 80% was attributable to ULCC growth and stimulation. According to World Bank and other public filings, over the same 15-year period, ULCCs in Europe grew their market share from approximately 5% of total domestic passengers in 2000 to approximately 38% of total domestic passengers in 2014, whereas in the United States, ULCCs only had a market share of approximately 3% of total domestic passengers in 2014.

Our Competitive Strengths

Our competitive strengths include:

Our Low-Cost Structure. Our low-cost structure has allowed us to reduce our unit operating costs, measured by our Adjusted CASM (excluding fuel), from 7.89¢ for the year ending December 31, 2013 to 5.43¢ for the year ending December 31, 2016, which is among the lowest of all airlines operating in the United States and compares to an average of 9.08¢ for legacy network carriers, which include American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines, an average of 7.85¢ for LCCs, which include JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines, and 5.94¢ and 5.45¢ for Allegiant Travel Company and Spirit Airlines, respectively. Our low-cost structure is driven by several factors:

 

    High Aircraft Utilization. We have high aircraft utilization, which during 2016 averaged 12.6 hours per day. This compares to an average during 2016 of 9.8 hours per day for legacy network carriers, an average of 10.5 hours per day for LCCs, and 12.4 and 6.3 hours per day for Spirit Airlines and Allegiant Travel Company, respectively.

 

    Modern Fleet and Attractive Order Book. We operate a modern fleet composed solely of Airbus A320 family aircraft, which are recognized as having high reliability and low operating costs. Operating a single family of aircraft provides us with several operational and cost advantages, including the ability to optimize crew scheduling and training, and maintenance. Since 2013, we have steadily reduced the number of A319 aircraft in our fleet, replacing them with larger and more cost-efficient A320ceo and A320neo aircraft (180 to 186 seats) and A321ceo aircraft (230 seats). As of December 31, 2016, the average age of our fleet was approximately six years. In addition, we have an attractive order book of new, fuel-efficient aircraft, including, as of December 31, 2016, 76 A320neo family aircraft. We believe, once all A320neo aircraft are delivered through 2021, we will have the fastest adoption rate of A320neo aircraft (as a percentage of total fleet) among U.S. carriers.

 

    Fuel Efficient Fleet. In 2015, we were named one of the industry’s most fuel-efficient airlines operating in 2014 by The International Council on Clean Transportation as a result of superior technology and operational efficiencies. Furthermore, the A320neo family aircraft that we have begun to place in service are estimated to deliver approximately 15% improved fuel efficiency compared to the prior generation of A320 aircraft.

 

   

High Capacity Fleet. We have increased the seat density on our A319ceo aircraft from 138 seats to 150 seats and the seat density on our prior generation of A320 aircraft from 168 seats to 180 seats during 2015. Across our entire fleet, we have grown from an average of 145 seats per aircraft in 2013 to 173 seats per aircraft in 2016, a 19% growth in the average number of seats per aircraft. Our fleet features

 



 

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new and lightweight slim-line seats, which eliminate excess weight and reduce fuel consumption per seat. As of March 31, 2017, we had the highest seat density per A320ceo/neo and A321ceo aircraft operated by any U.S. airline.

 

    Low Cost Distribution Model. For the years ended December 31, 2016 and 2015, approximately 63% and 58%, respectively, of our tickets were sold directly to customers through our direct distribution channels, including our website and mobile app, our lowest cost distribution channels, versus approximately 51% for the year ended December 31, 2014. We also reduced our distribution costs per passenger following the renegotiation of our distribution agreements.

 

    Highly Productive Workforce and Specialist Providers. We have a highly productive workforce with 4,723 passengers per full-time equivalent employee for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2016. Where it is efficient for us to do so, we contract with third-party specialists to provide us with select operating and other services.

Our Superior Brand. We believe establishing our brand as a premier ULCC positions us to generate greater customer loyalty, which enabled us to generate a unit revenue premium over Spirit Airlines, the largest ULCC in the United States, during the year ended December 31, 2016. Our superior brand is demonstrated by our significant number of repeat customers. According to a survey we conducted in February 2017, over 85% of our passengers surveyed were repeat customers and 61% had flown with us two or more times during the previous 12 months. The key features of our brand include:

 

    Significant customer value delivered through low fares with the choice of reasonably priced unbundled and bundled options, including The Works and The Perks.

 

    Family-friendly elements that appeal to a large audience, such as an attentive staff, popular animals on our aircraft tails, novelty cards for children and amenity packages tailored for families.

 

    A carefully designed look and feel, which is more upscale than traditional ULCCs, including our livery, our website and mobile applications, uniforms, seat design, on-board products and other graphical brand marketing components.

 

    A strong online presence with a customer-friendly digital platform that includes a new passenger reservation system, improved website and our mobile app.

 

    Our modern fleet with amenities such as extra seat padding, the widest economy middle seat on a narrow-body aircraft of any U.S. ULCC or LCC and our Stretch seating option, which provides a comfortable 33 inch seat pitch.

 

    The best operational performance among U.S. ULCCs for the year ended December 31, 2016 in terms of on-time performance and completion factor, according to the DOT.

Our Network Management. We plan our route network and airport footprint to focus on profitable existing routes and new routes where we believe our business model will stimulate demand and grow profitability. This has enabled us to reduce the seasonality of our revenue, increase revenues, improve utilization, lower unit costs and enhance profitability in each of 2014, 2015 and 2016. The key features of our network include:

 

    A broad geographic footprint, which enables us to service a wide range of VFR and leisure destinations.

 

    A strong presence in medium-sized markets.

 

    A disciplined and methodical approach to both route selection and the removal of underperforming routes.

 

    An operational platform that includes nationwide crew and maintenance bases, creating access to lower risk growth opportunities while maintaining high operational standards and enabling high utilization.

 



 

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Our Talented ULCC Leadership Team. Our management team has extensive day-to-day experience operating ULCCs and other airlines.

 

    Barry L. Biffle, our President and Chief Executive Officer, previously served as Chief Executive Officer of VivaColombia, Executive Vice President for Spirit Airlines and held various management roles with US Airways and American Eagle Airlines, a regional airline subsidiary of American Airlines, Inc.

 

    James G. Dempsey, our Chief Financial Officer, previously served as Treasurer and Head of Investor Relations for Ryanair after serving in management roles with PricewaterhouseCoopers.

 

    James E. Nides, our acting Chief Operating Officer, previously served as Chief Operating Officer of Volaris and has extensive prior experience at Continental Express.

 

    Daniel M. Shurz, our Senior Vice President, Commercial, previously served in various roles with United Airlines and Air Canada.

Low Fares Done Right—Our Business Strategy

Our goal is to offer the most attractive option for air travel with a compelling combination of value, product and service, and, in so doing, to grow profitably and enhance our position among airlines in the United States. Through the key elements of our business strategy, we seek to achieve:

Low Unit Costs. We intend to maintain our cost advantage, including by:

 

    Maintaining the high utilization levels we achieved in 2016.

 

    Utilizing new generation, fuel-efficient aircraft that deliver lower operating costs compared to prior generation aircraft.

 

    Increasing the average size and seat capacity of the aircraft in our fleet through the continued introduction and operation of new 186-seat A320neo and 230-seat A321ceo aircraft and the retirement of additional A319 aircraft.

 

    Taking a disciplined approach to our operational performance in order to reduce disruption.

A Superior ULCC Brand and High Unit Revenues. In order to enhance our brand and drive revenue growth, we intend to continue to deliver a higher-quality flight experience than historically offered by ULCCs globally and generate customer loyalty by:

 

    Continuing to offer attractive low fares.

 

    Expanding our marketing efforts, including through the addition of new animals for each of our new aircraft, to position our brand as a family-friendly ULCC.

 

    Continuing to improve penetration of our bundling options, including The Works and The Perks.

 

    Enhancing our Early Returns offering to improve reward opportunities for our branded credit card customers.

 

    Providing our customers a dependable, reliable, on-time and friendly experience.

Strong Growth Driven by an Expanding and Efficient Network. We intend to continue to utilize our disciplined and methodical approach to expand our network in an efficient manner, including by:

 

    Continuing to exploit overpriced and/or underserved markets across the U.S. and select international destinations in the Americas, including medium-sized markets, where a majority of our seat capacity was deployed during 2016.

 



 

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    Leveraging our diverse geographic footprint and existing crew and maintenance base infrastructure to take advantage of lower risk network growth opportunities while maintaining high operational standards.

 

    Utilizing our low cost structure to offer low fares which organically drive growth through market stimulation.

 

    Continuing to rebalance our network to mitigate seasonality fluctuations.

Strong Capital Structure. We intend to maintain our strong capital structure to support our growth strategies and expansion of our fleet and network by utilizing:

 

    Our $150 million pre-delivery financing facility, which we recently extended to 2019 and from which we had drawn $143 million as of December 31, 2016.

 

    Continued financing of aircraft with attractive operating leases.

 

    Our $50 million pre-purchased miles facility, from which we had drawn $39 million of the amount available as of December 31, 2016.

Our Relationship with Indigo

Indigo, our principal stockholder, is an established and successful investor in ULCCs around the world. Indigo has previously invested in several ULCC companies, including Spirit Airlines, Tigerair (formerly Tiger Airways), Volaris and Wizz Air, that completed initial public offerings following the successful implementation of a ULCC strategy under the guidance of Indigo and while Indigo was a significant investor.

Risk Factors

Our business is subject to numerous risks and uncertainties, including those highlighted in the section entitled “Risk Factors” following this prospectus summary, that represent challenges we face in connection with the successful implementation of our strategy and the growth of our business. We expect a number of factors to cause our operating results to fluctuate on a quarterly and annual basis, which may make it difficult to predict our future performance. Such factors include:

 

    the ability to operate in an exceedingly competitive industry;

 

    the price and availability of aircraft fuel;

 

    any restrictions on or increased taxes applicable to charges for non-ticket products and services;

 

    changes in economic conditions;

 

    threatened or actual terrorist attacks or security concerns;

 

    factors beyond our control, including air traffic congestion, adverse weather or increased security measures;

 

    our failure to implement our business strategy;

 

    our ability to control our costs;

 

    our ability to grow or maintain our unit revenues or maintain our non-ticket revenues;

 

    any increased labor costs, union disputes and other labor-related disruptions;

 

    our inability to expand or operate reliably and efficiently out of airports where we maintain a large presence;

 

    our inability to maintain a high daily aircraft utilization rate;

 



 

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    any changes in governmental regulation;

 

    our reputation and business being adversely affected in the event of an emergency, accident or similar incident involving our aircraft or by negative publicity regarding our customer service;

 

    our ability to obtain financing or access capital markets;

 

    our ability to maintain our liquidity in the event one or more of our credit card processors were to impose holdback restrictions;

 

    the long-term nature of our fleet order book and the unproven new engine technology utilized by the aircraft in our order book;

 

    our maintenance obligations;

 

    aircraft-related fixed obligations that could impair our liquidity; or

 

    our reliance on third-party specialists and other commercial partners to perform functions integral to our operations.

Our History

Our indirect, wholly-owned subsidiary, Frontier Airlines, Inc., or Frontier, was incorporated in 1994 to operate as an airline based in Denver, Colorado. In April 2008, Frontier filed for protection under the federal bankruptcy laws and ultimately emerged from bankruptcy in October 2009 through the acquisition of Frontier by a subsidiary of Republic Airways Holdings, Inc., or Republic. We were incorporated in September 2013 as a newly-formed corporation initially wholly-owned by an investment fund managed by Indigo to facilitate the acquisition of Frontier. That acquisition was completed on December 3, 2013.

Corporate Information

Our principal executive offices are presently located at Frontier Center One, 7001 Tower Road, Denver, Colorado 80249. In the fourth quarter of 2017, we expect to relocate our headquarters to 4545 Airport Way, Denver, Colorado 80239. Our general telephone number is (720) 374-4200 and our website address is www.FlyFrontier.com. We have not incorporated by reference into this prospectus any of the information on our website and you should not consider our website to be a part of this document. Our website address is included in this document for reference only.

Frontier Airlines®, Frontier®, the Frontier Flying F logo, Low Fares Done Right®, FlyFrontier.com®, Early Returns®, Discount Den®, StretchSM, The WorksSM and The PerksSM are trademarks of Frontier in the United States and other countries. This prospectus also contains trademarks and tradenames of other companies.

 



 

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THE OFFERING

 

Common stock offered by us

                 shares.

 

Common stock offered by the selling stockholder

                 shares.

 

Common stock to be outstanding after the offering

                 shares

 

Underwriters’ option to purchase additional shares

The selling stockholder may sell up to              additional shares if the underwriters exercise their option to purchase additional shares.

 

Use of proceeds

We estimate that we will receive net proceeds from this offering of approximately $         million based on an assumed initial public offering price of $         per share (the mid-point of the price range set forth on the cover page of this prospectus) and after deducting estimated underwriting discounts and estimated expenses of this offering payable by us.

 

  We intend to use the net proceeds to be received by us from this offering to fund the cash portion of our expected obligations under the Amended and Restated Phantom Equity Investment Agreement, dated as of December 31, 2013, or our Pilot Phantom Equity Plan, for the benefit of certain current and former pilots, who we refer to as the Participating Pilots, with the remaining net proceeds for general corporate purposes, including cash reserves, working capital, capital expenditures, including flight equipment acquisitions, sales and marketing activities and general and administrative matters. Please see “Use of Proceeds.”

 

  An investment fund managed by Indigo is our controlling stockholder and the selling stockholder in this offering. We will not receive any of the proceeds from the sale of any shares by the selling stockholder. Please see “Principal and Selling Stockholder.”

 

Dividends

Immediately prior to the consummation of this offering, we intend to declare a dividend in the amount of $     per share (representing an aggregate distribution of $     million). Investors in this offering will not be entitled to participate in such dividend. We do not presently anticipate paying cash dividends after the completion of this offering.

 

Risk factors

Please see “Risk Factors” beginning on page 17 and the other information included in this prospectus for a discussion of factors you should carefully consider before deciding to invest in our common stock.

 

Proposed                      symbol

“FRNT”

 



 

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The number of shares of our common stock outstanding after this offering is based on 5,237,756 shares outstanding as of December 31, 2016, and excludes:

 

    an aggregate of 274,781 shares of common stock issuable upon the exercise of outstanding stock options as of December 31, 2016 having a weighted-average exercise price of $54.33 per share;

 

    an aggregate of 687,463 shares of common stock reserved for issuance pursuant to future awards under our 2014 Equity Incentive Plan, as amended, as of December 31, 2016, which will become available for issuance under our 2017 Equity Incentive Annual Plan after consummation of this offering;

 

    an aggregate of                  shares of common stock reserved for issuance pursuant to future awards under our 2017 Equity Incentive Award Plan, as well as any automatic increases in the number of shares of our common stock reserved for future issuance under this plan, which will become effective immediately prior to the consummation of this offering;

 

    an aggregate of 231,000 shares of common stock reserved for issuance to the Participating Pilots pursuant to the Pilot Phantom Equity Plan (in connection with the offering contemplated hereby, 50% of the foregoing shares will be settled in cash through the establishment of a trust); see “Executive Compensation—Equity Compensation Plans—Pilot Phantom Equity Plan.”

Except as otherwise indicated, information in this prospectus reflects or assumes the following:

 

    a              -for-              split of our outstanding common stock, which will occur prior to the effectiveness of the registration statement of which this prospectus is a part;

 

    the filing and effectiveness of our amended and restated certificate of incorporation in Delaware and the adoption of our amended and restated bylaws, each of which will occur immediately prior to the consummation of this offering;

 

    no exercise of outstanding stock options subsequent to December 31, 2016; and

 

    no exercise of the underwriters’ option to purchase up to              additional shares of our common stock from the selling stockholder.

 



 

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SUMMARY HISTORICAL CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL AND OPERATING DATA

The following tables summarize the financial and operating data for our business for the periods presented. You should read this summary consolidated financial data in conjunction with “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and our consolidated financial statements and related notes, all included elsewhere in this prospectus.

We derived the summary consolidated statements of operations data for the years ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014 from our audited consolidated financial statements included in this prospectus. Our historical results are not necessarily indicative of the results to be expected in the future.

 

     Year Ended December 31,  
   2016     2015     2014  
    

(in millions, except for share

and per share data)

 

Consolidated Statements of Operations Data:

      

Operating revenues:

      

Passenger

   $ 988     $ 1,203     $ 1,328  

Non-ticket

     726       401       265  
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total operating revenues

     1,714       1,604       1,593  

Operating expenses:

      

Aircraft fuel

     343       369       538  

Salaries, wages and benefits

     287       285       258  

Station operations

     228       202       162  

Aircraft rent

     209       171       147  

Sales and marketing

     72       79       87  

Maintenance materials and repairs

     48       50       39  

Depreciation and amortization

     75       54       29  

Special charge

     —         43       —    

Other operating

     135       118       105  
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total operating expenses

     1,397       1,371       1,365  

Operating income

     317       233       228  

Other expense (income):

      

Interest expense

     9       8       5  

Capitalized interest

     (6     (3     (1

Interest income and other

     (2     —         —    
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total other expense

     1       5       4  

Income before income taxes

     316       228       224  

Income tax expense

     116       82       84  
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net income

   $ 200     $ 146     $ 140  
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Earnings per share:

 

 

Basic

   $ 36.76     $ 26.60     $ 26.12  

Diluted

     36.23       26.15       25.75  

Weighted-average shares outstanding:

      

Basic

     5,236,978       5,247,477       5,203,058  

Diluted

     5,315,653       5,341,049       5,278,034  

 



 

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     Year Ended December 31,  
         2016              2015              2014      
     (in millions)  

Non-GAAP Financial Data (Unaudited):

        

Adjusted net income(1)

   $ 236      $ 194      $ 168  

EBITDA(1)

     392        287        257  

Adjusted EBITDA(1)

     436        345        301  

Adjusted EBITDAR(1)

     641        509        448  

 

(1) Adjusted net income, EBITDA, Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDAR are included as supplemental disclosures because we believe they are useful indicators of our operating performance. Derivations of net income and EBITDA are well recognized performance measurements in the airline industry that are frequently used by our management, as well as by investors, securities analysts and other interested parties in comparing the operating performance of companies in our industry.

Adjusted net income, EBITDA, Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDAR have limitations as analytical tools. Some of the limitations applicable to these measures include: Adjusted net income, EBITDA, Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDAR do not reflect the impact of certain cash charges resulting from matters we consider not to be indicative of our ongoing operations; EBITDA, Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDAR do not reflect our cash expenditures, or future requirements, for capital expenditures or contractual commitments; EBITDA, Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDAR do not reflect changes in, or cash requirements for, our working capital needs; EBITDA, Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDAR do not reflect the interest expense, or the cash requirements necessary to service interest or principal payments, on our debts; although depreciation and amortization are non-cash charges, the assets being depreciated and amortized will often have to be replaced in the future, and EBITDA, Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDAR do not reflect any cash requirements for such replacements; and other companies in our industry may calculate Adjusted net income, EBITDA, Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDAR differently than we do, limiting its usefulness as a comparative measure. Because of these limitations, Adjusted net income, EBITDA, Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDAR should not be considered in isolation or as a substitute for performance measures calculated in accordance with GAAP.

Further, we believe Adjusted EBITDAR is useful in evaluating our operating performance compared to our competitors because its calculation isolates the effects of financing in general, the accounting effects of capital spending and acquisitions (primarily aircraft, which may be acquired directly, directly subject to acquisition debt, by capital lease or by operating lease, each of which is presented differently for accounting purposes), and income taxes, which may vary significantly between periods and for different companies for reasons unrelated to overall operating performance. However, because derivations of Adjusted net income, EBITDA, Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDAR are not determined in accordance with GAAP, such measures are susceptible to varying calculations and not all companies calculate the measures in the same manner. As a result, derivations of Net income and EBITDA as presented may not be directly comparable to similarly titled measures presented by other companies.

The following table presents the reconciliation of Net income and Adjusted net income for the periods presented below.

 

     Year Ended December 31,  
         2016              2015              2014      
     (in millions)  

Net Income Reconciliation:

        

Net income

   $ 200      $ 146      $ 140  

Unrealized hedging (gains) losses(a)

     —          (35      35  

Lease Modification Program(b)

     16        67        —    

Pilot phantom equity(c)

     40        43        6  

Salaries, wages and benefits—severance(d)

     —          —          3  
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Adjusted net income before income taxes

     256        221        184  

Tax benefit related to underlying adjustments

     (20      (27      (16
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Adjusted net income

   $ 236      $ 194      $ 168  
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

 



 

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The following table presents the reconciliation of EBITDA, Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDAR to Net income for the periods indicated below:

 

     Year Ended December 31,  
       2016              2015              2014      
     (in millions)  

EBITDA Reconciliation:

        

Net income

   $ 200      $ 146      $ 140  

Plus (minus):

        

Interest expense

     9        8        5  

Capitalized interest

     (6      (3      (1

Interest income

     (2      —          —    

Provision for income taxes

     116        82        84  

Depreciation and amortization

     75        54        29  
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

EBITDA

   $ 392      $ 287      $ 257  

Unrealized hedging (gains) losses(a)

     —          (35      35  

Lease Modification Program (excluding depreciation)(b)

     4        50        —    

Pilot phantom equity(c)

     40        43        6  

Salaries, wages and benefits—severance(d)

     —          —          3  
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Adjusted EBITDA

   $ 436      $ 345      $ 301  

Aircraft rent(e)

     205        164        147  
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Adjusted EBITDAR

   $ 641      $ 509      $ 448  
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

  (a) Represents adjustments for unrealized (gains) losses on our hedging contracts for anticipated fuel purchases as a result of hedge accounting on these cash flow hedges not being achieved.
  (b) Represents (i) a special charge of $43 million in 2015, primarily relating to aircraft maintenance obligations and non-recoverable maintenance deposits associated with the early termination of leases for 10 of our A319 aircraft and (ii) accelerated depreciation of $12 million and $17 million in 2016 and 2015, respectively, and aircraft rent of $4 million and $7 million in 2016 and 2015, respectively, as a result of significantly shortened lease terms with respect to such aircraft.
  (c) Represents the impact of the change in value and vesting of phantom stock units pursuant to the Pilot Phantom Equity Plan. See “Executive Compensation—Equity Compensation Plans—Pilot Phantom Equity Plan.”
  (d) Represents severance costs related to outsourcing of certain functions integral to our operations to third-party vendors as a part of the implementation of our new operating model.
  (e) Excludes the amounts of aircraft rent of $4 million and $7 million in 2016 and 2015, respectively, included in Lease Modification Program (excluding depreciation).

 



 

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The following table presents our historical balance sheet data as of December 31, 2016, and on a pro forma as adjusted basis to give effect to (i) this offering and the application of the net proceeds received by us and (ii) a dividend expected to be paid immediately prior to the consummation of this offering.

 

     As of December 31, 2016  
     Actual      Pro Forma As
Adjusted(1)(2)
 
     (in millions)  

Balance Sheet Data:

     

Cash and cash equivalents

   $ 612      $               

Total assets

     1,341     

Long-term debt, including current portion

     237     

Stockholders’ equity

     446     

 

(1) The unaudited adjusted pro forma consolidated balance sheet gives effect to (i) the receipt of the estimated net proceeds by us from the sale of shares of our common stock offered by us (based on an assumed initial public offering price of $         per share, the midpoint of the price range set forth on the cover of this prospectus), after deducting the estimated underwriting discounts and commissions and estimated offering expenses payable by us, and the application of the net proceeds received by us, including the application of $         million to fund into a trust the expected cash portion of our obligations under the Pilot Phantom Equity Agreement in connection with the completion of this offering (based on an assumed initial public offering price of $         per share, the midpoint of the price range as set forth on the cover of this prospectus), and (ii) a dividend of $         per share (representing an aggregate distribution of $        ) expected to be paid immediately prior to the consummation of this offering. Please see “Executive Compensation—Equity Compensation Plans—Pilot Phantom Equity Plan.”
(2) Each $1.00 increase or decrease in the assumed initial public offering price of $         per share would increase or decrease, respectively, the amount of pro forma as adjusted cash and cash equivalents, total assets and stockholders’ equity by $         million, assuming the number of shares offered by us, as set forth on the cover page of this prospectus, remains the same and after deducting the estimated underwriting discounts and commissions and estimated offering expenses payable by us. We may also increase or decrease the number of shares we are offering. An increase or decrease of 1,000,000 in the number of shares we are offering would increase or decrease, respectively, the amount of pro forma as adjusted cash and cash equivalents, assets and stockholders’ equity by approximately $         million (based on an assumed initial public offering price of $         per share, the midpoint of the price range as set forth on the cover of this prospectus). The pro forma as adjusted information is illustrative only, and we will adjust this information based on the actual initial public offering price and other terms of this offering determined at pricing.

 



 

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OPERATING STATISTICS

 

     Year Ended December 31,  
     2016     2015     2014  

Operating Statistics (unaudited)(A)

      

Available seat miles—ASMs (millions)

     18,366       15,229       12,332  

Departures

     99,369       97,222       92,184  

Average stage length (statute miles)

     1,060       1,002       897  

Block hours

     279,347       259,261       222,982  

Average aircraft in service

     61       56       54  

Aircraft in service—end of period

     66       61       54  

Average daily aircraft utilization (hours)

     12.6       12.6       11.4  

Passengers (thousands)

     14,937       13,184       12,203  

Average seats per departure

     173       154       147  

Yield per passenger mile

     6.17 ¢      8.97 ¢      11.91 ¢ 

Revenue passenger miles—RPMs (millions)

     16,015       13,400       11,152  

Load factor

     87.2     88.0     90.4

Passenger revenue per available seat mile—PRASM

     5.38 ¢      7.90 ¢      10.77 ¢ 

Non-ticket revenue per available seat mile

     3.95 ¢      2.63 ¢      2.15 ¢ 

Total revenue per available seat mile—RASM

     9.33 ¢      10.53 ¢      12.92 ¢ 

Cost per available seat mile—CASM

     7.61 ¢      9.01 ¢      11.07 ¢ 

Adjusted CASM(B)

     7.30 ¢      8.51 ¢      10.71 ¢ 

CASM (excluding fuel)

     5.74 ¢      6.58 ¢      6.71 ¢ 

Adjusted CASM (excluding fuel)(B)

     5.43 ¢      5.86 ¢      6.63 ¢ 

Fuel cost per gallon

   $ 1.59     $ 1.90     $ 3.26  

Fuel gallons consumed (thousands)

     215,830       194,846       164,845  

Employees (FTE)

     3,163       2,981       3,653  

 

(A) See “Glossary of Airline Terms” for definitions of terms used in this table.
(B) For a reconciliation of Adjusted CASM to CASM, please see “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Results of Operations.”

 



 

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GLOSSARY OF AIRLINE TERMS

Set forth below is a glossary of industry terms used in this prospectus:

“Adjusted CASM” means operating expenses, excluding special charges, divided by ASMs. For a discussion of such special charges and a reconciliation of Adjusted CASM to CASM, please see “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Results of Operations.”

“Adjusted CASM (excluding fuel)” means operating expenses less aircraft fuel expense and excluding special charges, divided by ASMs. For a discussion of such special charges and a reconciliation of Adjusted CASM to CASM, please see “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Results of Operations.”

“Air traffic liability” or “ATL” means the value of tickets sold in advance of travel.

“Available seat miles” or “ASMs” means the number of seats available for passengers multiplied by the number of miles the seats are flown.

“Average aircraft” means the average number of aircraft used in flight operations, as calculated on a daily basis.

“Average daily aircraft utilization” means block hours divided by number of days in the period divided by average aircraft.

“Average stage length” means the average number of statute miles flown per flight segment.

“Average yield” means the average amount one passenger pays to fly one mile, calculated as total revenue divided by RPMs.

“Block hours” means the number of hours during which the aircraft is in revenue service, measured from the time of gate departure before take-off until the time of gate arrival at the destination.

“CASM” or “unit costs” means operating expenses divided by ASMs.

“CBA” means a collective bargaining agreement.

“DOT” means the United States Department of Transportation.

“EPA” means the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

“FAA” means the United States Federal Aviation Administration.

“FTE” means full-time equivalent employee.

“GDS” means a Global Distribution System such as Amadeus, Sabre and Travelport, used by travel agencies and corporations to purchase tickets on participating airlines.

“Load factor” means the percentage of aircraft seat miles actually occupied on a flight (RPMs divided by ASMs).

“NMB” means the National Mediation Board.

“Non-ticket revenue” consists primarily of revenue generated from air travel-related services such as baggage fees, seat selection fees, itinerary service fees, booking fees and on-board sales.

“Operating revenue per ASM,” “RASM” or “unit revenue” means total operating revenue divided by ASMs.

 



 

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“Passengers” means the total number of passengers flown on all flight segments.

“Passenger revenue” consists of base fares for air travel, including miles redeemed under our frequent flyer program, unused and expired passenger credits, other redeemed or expired travel credits and revenue derived from charter flights.

“PDP” means pre-delivery deposit payments, which are payments required by aircraft manufacturers in advance of delivery of the aircraft.

“PRASM” means passenger revenue divided by ASMs.

“RASM” means total revenue divided by ASMs.

“Revenue passenger miles” or “RPMs” means the number of miles flown by passengers.

“RLA” means the United States Railway Labor Act.

“Stage-length adjustment” refers to an adjustment that can be utilized to compare CASM and RASM across airlines with varying stage lengths. All other things being equal, the same airline will have lower CASM and RASM as stage length increases since fixed and departure related costs are spread over increasingly longer average flight lengths. Therefore, as one method to facilitate comparison of these quantities across airlines (or even across the same airline for two different periods if the airline’s average stage length has changed significantly), it is common in the airline industry to settle on a common assumed stage length and then to adjust CASM and RASM appropriately. Stage-length adjusted comparisons are achieved by multiplying base CASM or RASM by a quotient, the numerator of which is the square root of the carrier’s stage length and the denominator of which is the square root of the common stage length. Stage-length adjustment techniques require judgment and different observers may use different techniques. For stage-length adjusted CASM and RASM comparisons in this prospectus, the stage length being utilized is the aircraft stage length.

“TSA” means the United States Transportation Security Administration.

“ULCC” means ultra low-cost carrier.

“VFR” means visiting friends and relatives.

“Yield” relates to a measure of average fare paid per mile per passenger, calculated by dividing passenger revenue by revenue passenger miles.

 



 

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RISK FACTORS

Investing in our common stock involves a high degree of risk. You should carefully consider the risks and uncertainties described below, together with all of the other information in this prospectus, including the section titled “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and our consolidated financial statements and related notes, before making a decision to invest in our common stock. The risks and uncertainties described below may not be the only ones we face. If any of these risks should occur, our business, results of operations, financial condition or growth prospects could be adversely affected. In those cases, the trading price of our common stock could decline and you may lose all or part of your investment.

Risks Related to Our Industry

The airline industry is exceedingly competitive, and we compete against legacy network airlines, low-cost carriers and other ultra low-cost carriers; if we are not able to compete successfully in our markets, our business will be materially adversely affected.

We face significant competition with respect to routes, fares and services. Within the airline industry, we compete with legacy network airlines, low-cost carriers, or LCCs, and other ultra low-cost carriers, or ULCCs, for airline passengers traveling on the routes we serve, particularly customers traveling in economy or similar classes of service. Competition on most of the routes we presently serve is intense, due to the large number of carriers in those markets. Furthermore, other airlines may begin service or increase existing service on routes where we currently face no or little competition. In almost all instances, our competitors are larger than us and possess significantly greater financial and other resources than us.

The airline industry is particularly susceptible to price discounting because, once a flight is scheduled, airlines incur only nominal additional costs to provide service to passengers occupying otherwise unsold seats. Increased fare or other price competition could adversely affect our operations. Airlines typically use discount fares and other promotions to stimulate traffic during normally slower travel periods to generate cash flow and to increase revenue per available seat mile. The prevalence of discount fares can be particularly acute when a competitor has excess capacity to sell. Moreover, many other airlines have unbundled their services, at least in part, by charging separately for services such as baggage and advance seat selection which previously were offered as a component of base fares. This unbundling and other cost-reducing measures could enable competitor airlines to reduce fares on routes that we serve.

In addition, airlines increase or decrease capacity in markets based on perceived profitability. If our competitors increase overall industry capacity, or capacity dedicated to a particular domestic or foreign region, market or route that we serve, it could have a material adverse impact on our business. For instance, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines have recently announced that they are adding capacity in Denver in 2017. If a legacy network airline were to successfully develop a low-cost product or if we were to experience increased competition from LCCs or other ULCCs, our business could be materially adversely affected. Regardless of cost structure, the domestic airline industry has often been the source of fare wars undertaken to grow market share or for other reasons, including, for example, actions by American Airlines in 2015 to match fares offered in many of its markets by ULCC carriers with resulting material adverse effects on the revenues of the airlines involved. Additionally, each of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines has begun to offer a so-called “basic economy” offering with reduced amenities designed specifically to compete against ULCC carriers which, if successfully implemented, could present a significant form of competition for us.

Our growth and the success of our ULCC business model could stimulate competition in our markets through our competitors’ development of their own ULCC strategies or new market entrants. For example, certain legacy network airlines have recently begun further segmenting the cabins of their aircraft in order to enable them to offer a new tier of reduced base fares designed to be competitive with those offered by us and other ULCCs. A competitor adopting a ULCC strategy may have greater financial resources and access to lower cost sources of capital than we do, which could enable them to operate their business with a lower cost structure than we can. If these competitors adopt and successfully execute a ULCC business model, our business could be materially adversely affected.

 

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There has been significant consolidation within the airline industry, including, for example, the combinations of American Airlines and US Airways, Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines, United Airlines and Continental Airlines, Southwest Airlines and AirTran Airways, and Alaska Airlines and Virgin America. In the future, there may be additional consolidation in our industry. Business combinations could significantly alter industry conditions and competition within the airline industry and could permit our competitors to reduce their fares.

The extremely competitive nature of the airline industry could prevent us from attaining the level of passenger traffic or maintaining the level of fares or revenues related to non-ticket services required to sustain profitable operations in new and existing markets and could impede our growth strategy, which could harm our operating results. Due to our relatively small size, we are susceptible to a fare war or other competitive activities in one or more of the markets we serve, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

Our business has been and in the future may be materially adversely affected by the price and availability of aircraft fuel. Unexpected pricing of aircraft fuel or a shortage or disruption in the supply of aircraft fuel could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

The cost of aircraft fuel is highly volatile and in recent years has been our largest individual operating expense, accounting for 25%, 27% and 39% of our operating expenses for the years ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014, respectively. High fuel prices or increases in fuel costs (or in the price of crude oil) could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. Since August 2014, the price of aircraft fuel has fallen substantially, which has benefited us by lowering our expenses. However, because fuel prices are highly volatile, the price of jet fuel may increase significantly at any time. In addition, prolonged low fuel prices could limit our ability to differentiate our product and low fares from those of the legacy network airlines and LCCs, as prolonged low fuel prices could enable such carriers to, among other things, substantially decrease their costs, fly longer stages or utilize older aircraft. Furthermore, prolonged low fuel prices could also reduce the benefit we expect to receive from the new-technology, more fuel efficient A320neo aircraft we have on order and have begun placing into service. See also “Risks Related to Our Business—We may be subject to competitive risks due to the long-term nature of our fleet order book and the unproven new engine technology utilized by the aircraft in our order book.”

Our business is also dependent on the availability of aircraft fuel (or crude oil), which is not predictable. Weather-related events, natural disasters, terrorism, wars, political disruption or instability involving oil-producing countries, changes in governmental or cartel policy concerning crude oil or aircraft fuel production, labor strikes or other events affecting refinery production, transportation, taxes or marketing, environmental concerns, market manipulation, price speculation and other unpredictable events may drive actual or perceived fuel supply shortages. Shortages in the availability of, or increases in demand for, crude oil in general, other crude oil-based fuel derivatives and aircraft fuel in particular could result in increased fuel prices and could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

We may not be able to increase ticket prices sufficiently to cover increased fuel costs, particularly when fuel prices rise quickly. We sell a significant number of tickets to passengers well in advance of travel, and, as a result, fares sold for future travel may not reflect increased fuel costs. In addition, our ability to increase ticket prices to offset an increase in fuel costs is limited by the competitive nature of the airline industry and the price sensitivity associated with air travel, particularly leisure travel, and any increases in fares may reduce the general demand for air travel.

As of December 31, 2016, we had hedges in place for approximately 73% of our projected fuel requirements in 2017 and approximately 20% of our projected fuel requirements for the month of January 2018, with all of our then existing call options expected to be exercised or expire by 2018. As of that date, our hedges consisted solely of out-of-the-money call options, although we have in the past and may in the future use other instruments such

 

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as options and collar contracts on jet fuel or highly correlated commodities, and fixed forward price contracts, or FFPs, which allow us to lock in the price of jet fuel for specified quantities and at specified locations in future periods. We cannot assure you our fuel hedging program will be effective or that we will maintain a fuel hedging program. Even if we are able to hedge portions of our future fuel requirements, we cannot guarantee that our hedge contracts will provide an adequate level of protection against increased fuel costs or that the counterparties to our hedge contracts will be able to perform. In the future, our fuel hedge contracts could also contain margin funding requirements that could require us to post collateral to counterparties in the event of a significant drop in fuel prices. Additionally, our ability to realize the benefit of declining fuel prices will be delayed by the impact of any fuel hedges in place, and we may record significant losses on fuel hedges during periods of declining prices. A failure of our fuel hedging strategy, significant margin funding requirements, overpaying for fuel through the use of hedging arrangements or our failure to maintain a fuel hedging program could prevent us from adequately mitigating the risk of fuel price increases and could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

Restrictions on or increased taxes applicable to charges for non-ticket products and services paid by airline passengers and burdensome consumer protection regulations or laws could harm our business, results of operations and financial condition.

During the years ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014, we generated non-ticket revenues of $726 million, $401 million and $265 million, respectively. Our non-ticket revenue consists primarily of revenue generated from air travel-related services such as baggage fees, seat selection fees, itinerary service fees, booking fees and on-board sales. The Department of Transportation, or DOT, has rules governing many facets of the airline-consumer relationship, including, for instance, handling of consumer complaints, price advertising, tarmac delays, oversales and denied boarding process/compensation, ticket refunds, liability for loss, delay or damage to baggage, customer service commitments, contracts of carriage, and the transportation of passengers with disabilities. The DOT periodically audits airlines to determine whether such airlines have violated any of the DOT rules. The DOT has conducted audits of our business and routine post-audit investigations of our business are ongoing. If the DOT determines that we are not, or have not been, in compliance with these rules or if we are unable to remain compliant, the DOT may subject us to fines or other enforcement action. The DOT may also impose additional consumer protection requirements, including adding requirements to modify our websites and computer reservations system, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. The U.S. Congress and the DOT have investigated the increasingly common airline industry practice of unbundling the pricing of certain products and ancillary services, a practice that is a core component of our business strategy. If new laws or regulations are adopted that make unbundling of airline products and services impermissible, or more cumbersome or expensive, or if new taxes are imposed on non-ticket revenues, our business, results of operations and financial condition could be harmed. Congressional, Federal agency and other government scrutiny may also change industry practice or the public’s willingness to pay for non-ticket ancillary services. See also “—We are subject to extensive and increasing regulation by the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Transportation, Transportation Security Administration and other U.S. and foreign governmental agencies, compliance with which could cause us to incur increased costs and adversely affect our business and financial results.”

The demand for airline services is highly sensitive to changes in economic conditions, and another recession or similar economic downturn in the United States would weaken demand for our services and have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition, particularly since a substantial portion of our customers travel for leisure or other non-essential purposes.

The demand for travel services is affected by U.S. and global economic conditions. Unfavorable economic conditions have historically reduced airline travel spending. For most passengers visiting friends and relatives, or VFRs, and cost-conscious leisure travelers, travel is a discretionary expense, and though we believe ULCCs are best suited to attract travelers during periods of unfavorable economic conditions as a result of such carriers’ low base fares, travelers have often elected to replace air travel at such times with car travel or other forms of ground

 

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transportation or have opted not to travel at all. Likewise, during periods of unfavorable economic conditions businesses have deferred air travel or forgone it altogether. Travelers have also reduced spending by purchasing fewer non-ticket services, which can result in a decrease in average revenue per seat. Because airlines typically have relatively high fixed costs as a percentage of total costs, much of which cannot be mitigated during periods of lower demand for air travel, the airline business is particularly sensitive to changes in U.S. economic conditions. A reduction in the demand for air travel due to unfavorable economic conditions also limits our ability to raise fares to counteract increased fuel, labor and other costs. If U.S. or global economic conditions are unfavorable or uncertain for an extended period of time, it would have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

We face competition from air travel substitutes.

In addition to airline competition from legacy network airlines, LCCs and other ULCCs, we also face competition from air travel substitutes. On our domestic routes, particularly those with shorter stage lengths, we face competition from some other transportation alternatives, such as bus, train or automobile. In addition, technology advancements may limit the demand for air travel. For example, video teleconferencing and other methods of electronic communication may reduce the need for in-person communication and add a new dimension of competition to the industry as travelers seek lower-cost substitutes for air travel. If we are unable to stimulate demand for air travel with our low base fares or if we are unable to adjust rapidly in the event the basis of competition in our markets changes, it could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

Threatened or actual terrorist attacks or security concerns involving airlines could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

Past terrorist attacks or attempted attacks, particularly those against airlines, have caused substantial revenue losses and increased security costs, and any actual or threatened terrorist attack or security breach, even if not directly against an airline, could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. For instance, enhanced passenger screening, increased regulation governing carry-on baggage and other similar restrictions on passenger travel may further increase passenger inconvenience and reduce the demand for air travel. In addition, increased or enhanced security measures have tended to result in higher governmental fees imposed on airlines, resulting in higher operating costs for airlines, which we may not be able to pass on to consumers in the form of higher prices. Terrorist attacks made directly on a domestic airline, or the fear of such attacks or other hostilities (including elevated national threat warnings or selective cancellation or redirection of flights due to terror threats), would have a negative impact on the airline industry and have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

Airlines are often affected by factors beyond their control including: air traffic congestion at airports; air traffic control inefficiencies; adverse weather conditions, such as hurricanes or blizzards; increased security measures; new travel related taxes or the outbreak of disease, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

Like other airlines, our business is affected by factors beyond our control, including air traffic congestion at airports, air traffic control inefficiencies, increased security measures, new travel-related taxes and fees, adverse weather conditions, natural disasters and the outbreak of disease. Factors that cause flight delays frustrate passengers and increase costs and decrease revenues, which in turn could adversely affect profitability. The federal government singularly controls all U.S. airspace, and airlines are completely dependent on the FAA to operate that airspace in a safe, efficient and affordable manner. The air traffic control system, which is operated by the FAA, faces challenges in managing the growing demand for U.S. air travel. U.S. and foreign air-traffic controllers often rely on outdated technologies that routinely overwhelm the system and compel airlines to fly inefficient, indirect routes resulting in delays. In addition, there are currently proposals before Congress that could potentially lead to the privatization of the United States’ air traffic control system, which could adversely

 

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affect our business. Further, implementation of the Next Generation Air Transport System, or NextGen, by the FAA would result in changes to aircraft routings and flight paths that could lead to increased noise complaints and lawsuits, resulting in increased costs. There are additional proposals before Congress that would treat a wide range of consumer protection issues, including, among other things, proposals to regulate seat size, which could increase the costs of doing business.

Adverse weather conditions and natural disasters, such as hurricanes, winter snowstorms or earthquakes, can cause flight cancellations or significant delays. Cancellations or delays due to adverse weather conditions or natural disasters, air traffic control problems or inefficiencies, breaches in security or other factors may affect us to a greater degree than other, larger airlines that may be able to recover more quickly from these events, and therefore could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition to a greater degree than other air carriers. Because of our high utilization, point-to-point network, operational disruptions can have a disproportionate impact on our ability to recover. In addition, many airlines reaccommodate their disrupted passengers on other airlines at prearranged rates under flight interruption manifest agreements. We have been unsuccessful in procuring any of these agreements with our peers, which makes our recovery from disruption more challenging than for larger airlines that have these agreements in place. Similarly, outbreaks of pandemic or contagious diseases, such as ebola, measles, avian flu, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), H1N1 (swine) flu, pertussis (whooping cough) and zika virus, could result in significant decreases in passenger traffic and the imposition of government restrictions in service and could have a material adverse impact on the airline industry. Increased travel taxes, such as those provided in the Travel Promotion Act, enacted in March 2010, which charges visitors from certain countries a $10 fee every two years to travel into the United States to subsidize certain travel promotion efforts, could also result in decreases in passenger traffic. Any general reduction in airline passenger traffic could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

Risks associated with our presence in international emerging markets, including political or economic instability, and failure to adequately comply with existing legal requirements, may materially adversely affect us.

Some of our target growth markets include countries with less developed economies, legal systems, financial markets and business and political environments are vulnerable to economic and political disruptions, such as significant fluctuations in gross domestic product, interest and currency exchange rates, civil disturbances, government instability, nationalization and expropriation of private assets, trafficking and the imposition of taxes or other charges by governments. The occurrence of any of these events in markets served by us now or in the future and the resulting instability may have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

We emphasize compliance with all applicable laws and regulations and have implemented and continue to implement and refresh policies, procedures and certain ongoing training of our employees, third-party specialists and partners with regard to business ethics and key legal requirements; however, we cannot assure you that our employees, third-party specialists or partners will adhere to our code of ethics, other policies or other legal requirements. If we fail to enforce our policies and procedures properly or maintain adequate recordkeeping and internal accounting practices to record our transactions accurately, we may be subject to sanctions. In the event we believe or have reason to believe our employees, third-party specialists or partners have or may have violated applicable laws or regulations, we may incur investigation costs, potential penalties and other related costs which in turn may materially adversely affect our reputation and could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

Increases in insurance costs or reductions in insurance coverage may have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

If any of our aircraft were to be involved in a significant accident or if our property or operations were to be affected by a significant natural catastrophe or other event, we could be exposed to material liability or loss. If

 

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we are unable to obtain sufficient insurance (including aviation hull and liability insurance and property and business interruption coverage) to cover such liabilities or losses, whether due to insurance market conditions or otherwise, our business could be materially adversely affected.

We currently obtain third-party war risk (terrorism) insurance as part of our commercial aviation hull and liability policy and additional third-party war risk (terrorism) insurance through a separate policy with a different private insurance company. Our current war risk insurance from commercial underwriters excludes nuclear, radiological and certain other events. If we are unable to obtain adequate third-party war risk (terrorism) insurance or if an event not covered by the insurance we maintain were to take place, our business could be materially adversely affected.

Risks Related to Our Business

If we fail to implement our business strategy successfully, our business will be materially adversely affected.

Our growth strategy includes significantly expanding our fleet, increasing the frequency of flights and size of aircraft used in markets we currently serve, and expanding the number of markets we serve. We select target markets and routes where we believe we can achieve profitability within a reasonable timeframe, and we only continue operating on routes where we believe we can achieve and maintain our desired level of profitability. When developing our route network, we focus on gaining market share on routes that have been underserved or are served primarily by higher cost airlines where we have a competitive cost advantage. Effectively implementing our growth strategy is critical for our business to achieve economies of scale and to sustain or increase our profitability. We face numerous challenges in implementing our growth strategy, including our ability to:

 

    sustain our relatively low unit operating costs, continue to realize attractive revenue performance and maintain profitability;

 

    maintain a high level of aircraft utilization; and

 

    access airports located in our targeted geographic markets where we can operate routes in a manner that is consistent with our cost strategy.

In addition, in order to successfully implement our growth strategy, which includes the planned growth of our fleet from 66 aircraft as of December 31, 2016 to a fleet of 121 by the end of 2021, we will require access to a large number of gates and other services at airports we currently serve or may seek to serve. We believe there are currently significant restraints on gates and related ground facilities at many of the most heavily utilized airports in the United States, in addition to the fact that three major domestic airports (JFK and LaGuardia in New York and Reagan National in Washington, D.C.) require government-controlled take-off or landing “slots” to operate at those airports. As a result, if we are unable to obtain access to a sufficient number of slots, gates or related ground facilities at desirable airports to accommodate our growing fleet, we may be unable to compete in desirable markets, our aircraft utilization rate could decrease, and we could suffer a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

Our growth is also dependent upon our ability to maintain a safe and secure operation and will require additional personnel, equipment and facilities as we induct new aircraft and continue to execute our growth plan. In addition, we’ll require additional third-party personnel for services we do not undertake ourselves. An inability to hire and retain personnel, timely secure the required equipment and facilities in a cost-effective manner, efficiently operate our expanded facilities or obtain the necessary regulatory approvals may adversely affect our ability to achieve our growth strategy, which could harm our business. Furthermore, expansion to new markets may have other risks due to factors specific to those markets. We may be unable to foresee all of the existing risks upon entering certain new markets or respond adequately to these risks, and our growth strategy and our business may suffer as a result. In addition, our competitors may reduce their fares and/or offer special promotions following our entry into a new market. We cannot assure you that we will be able to profitably expand our existing markets or establish new markets.

 

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Some of our target growth markets outside of the United States include countries with less developed economies that may be vulnerable to unstable economic and political conditions, such as significant fluctuations in gross domestic product, interest and currency exchange rates, civil disturbances, government instability, nationalization and expropriation of private assets and the imposition of taxes or other charges by governments. The occurrence of any of these events in markets served by us and the resulting instability may adversely affect our ability to implement our growth strategy.

Our low cost structure is one of our primary competitive advantages, and many factors could affect our ability to control our costs.

Our low cost structure is one of our primary competitive advantages. However, we have limited control over some of our costs. For example, we have limited control over the price and availability of aircraft fuel, aviation insurance, the acquisition and cost of aircraft, airport and related infrastructure costs, taxes, the cost of meeting changing regulatory requirements and our cost to access capital or financing. In addition, the compensation and benefit costs applicable to a significant portion of our employees are established by the terms of collective bargaining agreements, substantially all of which are currently open and are being negotiated. See “— Increased labor costs, union disputes, employee strikes and other labor-related disruption, including in connection with our current negotiations with the unions representing our pilots, flight attendants, maintenance controllers and aircraft appearance agents, may adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.” We cannot guarantee we will be able to maintain our relatively low costs. If our cost structure increases and we are no longer able to maintain a competitive cost structure, it could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

We may not be able to grow or maintain our unit revenues or maintain our non-ticket revenues.

A key component of our Low Fares Done Right strategy was establishing Frontier as a premier ULCC in the United States by attracting customers with low fares and garnering repeat business by delivering a high-quality, family-friendly customer experience with a more upscale look and feel than traditionally experienced on ULCCs in the United States. We intend to continue to differentiate our brand and product in order to expand our loyal customer base and grow or maintain our unit revenues and maintain our non-ticket revenues. Differentiating our brand and product has required and will continue to require significant investment, and we cannot assure you that the initiatives we have implemented will continue to be successful or that the initiatives we intend to implement will be successful. If we are unable to maintain or further differentiate our brand and product from the other U.S. ULCCs, our market share could decline, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. We may also not be successful in leveraging our brand and product to stimulate new demand with low base fares or gain market share from the legacy airlines.

In addition, our business strategy includes maintaining our portfolio of desirable, value-oriented, non-ticket products and services. However, we cannot assure you that passengers will continue to perceive value in the non-ticket products and services we currently offer and regulatory initiatives could adversely affect non-ticket revenue opportunities. Failure to maintain our non-ticket revenues would have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. Furthermore, if we are unable to maintain our non-ticket revenues, we may not be able to execute our strategy to continue to lower base fares in order to stimulate demand for air travel.

Increased labor costs, union disputes, employee strikes and other labor-related disruption, may adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.

Our business is labor intensive, with labor costs representing approximately 21%, 21% and 19% of our total operating costs for the years ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014, respectively. As of December 31, 2016, approximately 85% of our workforce was represented by labor unions and our labor agreements with our pilots, flight attendants, maintenance controllers and aircraft appearance agents are currently under negotiation with the

 

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unions representing such employees. We cannot assure you that our labor costs going forward will remain competitive or that any new agreements into which we enter will not have terms with higher labor costs or that the negotiations of such labor agreements will not result in any work stoppages. In addition, one or more of our competitors may significantly reduce their labor costs, thereby providing them with a competitive advantage over us. Furthermore, our labor costs may increase in connection with our growth. We may also become subject to additional collective bargaining agreements in the future as non-unionized workers may unionize.

Relations between air carriers and labor unions in the United States are governed by the Railway Labor Act, or the RLA. Under the RLA, collective bargaining agreements generally contain “amendable dates” rather than expiration dates, and the RLA requires that a carrier maintain the existing terms and conditions of employment following the amendable date through a multi-stage and usually lengthy series of bargaining processes overseen by the National Mediation Board, or the NMB. This process continues until either the parties have reached agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement, or the parties have been released to “self-help” by the NMB. In most circumstances, the RLA prohibits strikes; however, after release by the NMB, carriers and unions are free to engage in self-help measures such as lockouts and strikes.

Each of our collective bargaining agreements with our pilots, flight attendants, maintenance controllers and aircraft appearance agents are currently amendable and we are in negotiations with the union representing each group. See also “Business—Employees.” The outcome of our collective bargaining negotiations cannot presently be determined and the terms and conditions of our future collective bargaining agreements may be affected by the results of collective bargaining negotiations at other airlines that may have a greater ability, due to larger scale, greater efficiency or other factors, to bear higher costs than we can. In addition, if we are unable to reach agreement with any of our unionized work groups in current or future negotiations regarding the terms of their collective bargaining agreements, we may be subject to work interruptions, stoppages or shortages. Any such action or other labor dispute with unionized employees could disrupt our operations, reduce our profitability or interfere with the ability of our management to focus on executing our business strategies. As a result, our business, results of operations and financial condition may be materially adversely affected based on the outcome of our negotiations with the unions representing our employees.

Our inability to expand or operate reliably or efficiently out of airports where we maintain a large presence could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition and brand.

We are highly dependent on markets served from airports where we maintain a large presence, including our operations in Denver as well as our operations in Orlando, Las Vegas, Chicago, Atlanta and Philadelphia. Our results of operations may be affected by actions taken by governmental or other agencies or authorities having jurisdiction over our operations at these and other airports, including, but not limited to:

 

    increases in airport rates and charges;

 

    limitations on take-off and landing slots, airport gate capacity or other use of airport facilities;

 

    termination of our airport use agreements, some of which can be terminated by airport authorities with little notice to us;

 

    increases in airport capacity that could facilitate increased competition;

 

    international travel regulations such as customs and immigration;

 

    increases in taxes;

 

    changes in the law that affect the services that can be offered by airlines in particular markets and at particular airports;

 

    restrictions on competitive practices;

 

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    the adoption of statutes or regulations that impact customer service standards, including security standards; and

 

    the adoption of more restrictive locally-imposed noise regulations or curfews.

Our existing lease at Denver International Airport terminates in December 2018. We cannot assure you that renewal of the lease will occur on acceptable terms or at all, or that the new lease will not include additional or increased fees. In general, any changes in airport operations could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

Negative publicity regarding our customer service could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

Our business strategy includes the differentiation of our brand and product from the other U.S. airlines, including other ULCCs, in order to increase customer loyalty and drive future ticket sales. We intend to accomplish this by continuing to offer passengers dependable customer service. However, in the past, we have experienced a relatively high number of customer complaints related to, among other things, our customer service and reservations and ticketing systems. In particular, we have generally experienced a higher volume of complaints when we implemented changes to our unbundling policies, such as charging for baggage. These complaints, together with reports of lost baggage, delayed and cancelled flights, and other service issues, are reported to the public by the Department of Transportation. If we do not meet our customers’ expectations with respect to reliability and service, our brand and product could be negatively impacted, which could result in customers deciding not to fly with us and adversely affect our business and reputation.

We rely on maintaining a high daily aircraft utilization rate to implement our low cost structure, which makes us especially vulnerable to flight delays, flight cancellations or aircraft unavailability.

We maintain a high daily aircraft utilization rate. Our average daily aircraft utilization was 12.6 hours, 12.6 hours and 11.4 hours for the years ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014, respectively. Aircraft utilization is the average amount of time per day that our aircraft spend carrying passengers. Part of our business strategy is to maximize revenue per aircraft through high daily aircraft utilization, which is achieved in part by quick turnaround times at airports so we can fly more hours on average in a day. Aircraft utilization is reduced by delays and cancellations from various factors, many of which are beyond our control, including air traffic congestion at airports or other air traffic control problems or outages, adverse weather conditions, increased security measures or breaches in security, international or domestic conflicts, terrorist activity, or other changes in business conditions. A significant portion of our operations are concentrated in markets such as Denver, the Northeast and northern Midwest regions of the United States, which are particularly vulnerable to weather, airport traffic constraints and other delays, particularly in the winter months. In addition, pulling aircraft out of service for unscheduled and scheduled maintenance may materially reduce our average fleet utilization and require that we reaccommodate passengers or seek short-term substitute capacity at increased costs. Due to the relatively small size of our fleet, our point-to-point network and high daily aircraft utilization rate, the unexpected unavailability of one or more aircraft and resulting reduced capacity could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

It has only been a limited period since our current business and operating strategy has been implemented.

Following our acquisition by an investment fund managed by Indigo Partners LLC, or Indigo, in 2013 and the implementation of our current business and operating strategy in 2014, we recorded net income of $200 million, $146 million and $140 million for the years ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014, respectively which are higher levels of net income than we had previously achieved. For the year ended December 31, 2013, during which our predecessor owned Frontier for the first 11 months of the year, we recorded net income of $12 million during the successor period and a loss of $1 million during the predecessor

 

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period. While we recorded an annual profit for the years ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014, we cannot assure you that we will be able to sustain or increase profitability on a quarterly or an annual basis. In turn, this may cause the trading price of our common stock to decline and may materially adversely affect our business.

We are subject to various environmental and noise laws and regulations, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

We are subject to increasingly stringent federal, state, local and foreign laws, regulations and ordinances relating to the protection of the environment and noise, including those relating to emissions to the air, discharges (including storm water discharges) to surface and subsurface waters, safe drinking water and the use, management, disposal and release of, and exposure to, hazardous substances, oils and waste materials. We are or may be subject to new or proposed laws and regulations that may have a direct effect (or indirect effect through our third-party specialists or airport facilities at which we operate) on our operations. In addition, U.S. airport authorities are exploring ways to limit de-icing fluid discharges. Any such existing, future, new or potential laws and regulations could have an adverse impact on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

Similarly, we are subject to environmental laws and regulations that require us to investigate and remediate soil or groundwater to meet certain remediation standards. Under certain laws, generators of waste materials, and current and former owners or operators of facilities, can be subject to liability for investigation and remediation costs at locations that have been identified as requiring response actions. Liability under these laws may be strict, joint and several, meaning that we could be liable for the costs of cleaning up environmental contamination regardless of fault or the amount of wastes directly attributable to us.

In addition, the International Civil Aviation Organization, or ICAO, and jurisdictions around the world have adopted noise regulations that require all aircraft to comply with noise level standards, and governmental authorities in several U.S. and foreign cities are considering or have already implemented aircraft noise reduction programs, including the imposition of overnight curfews and limitations on daytime take-offs and landings. Compliance with existing and future environmental laws and regulations, including emissions limitations and more restrictive or widespread noise regulations, that may be applicable to us could require significant expenditures, increase our cost base and have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition, and violations thereof can lead to significant fines and penalties, among other sanctions.

We generally participate with other airlines in fuel consortia and fuel committees at our airports, which agreements generally include cost-sharing provisions and environmental indemnities that are generally joint and several among the participating airlines. Any costs (including remediation and spill response costs) incurred by such fuel consortia could also have an adverse impact on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

We are subject to risks associated with climate change, including increased regulation to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

Concern about climate change and greenhouse gases may result in additional regulation or taxation of aircraft emissions in the United States and abroad. In particular, in June 2015, the EPA announced a proposed endangerment finding that aircraft engine green house gas, or GHG, emissions cause or contribute to air pollution that may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare. If the EPA makes a final, positive endangerment finding, the EPA is obligated under the Clean Air Act to set GHG emissions standards for aircraft. Several states are also considering or have adopted initiatives to regulate emissions of GHGs, primarily through the planned development of GHG emissions inventories and/or regional cap-and-trade programs. On March 6, 2017, ICAO adopted new carbon dioxide certification standards for new aircraft beginning in 2020. The new CO2 standards will apply to new aircraft type designs from 2020, and to aircraft type designs already in production as of 2023. In-production aircraft that do not meet the standard by 2028 will no longer be able to be produced unless their designs are modified to meet the new standards.

 

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In the event that such legislation or regulation is enacted in the United States or in the event similar legislation or regulation is enacted in jurisdictions where we operate or where we may operate in the future, it could result in significant costs for us and the airline industry. In addition to direct costs, such regulation may have a greater effect on the airline industry through increases in fuel costs that could result from fuel suppliers passing on increased costs that they incur under such a system.

Our reputation and business could be adversely affected in the event of an emergency, accident or similar incident involving our aircraft.

We are exposed to potential significant losses in the event that any of our aircraft is subject to an emergency, accident, terrorist incident or other similar incident, and significant costs related to passenger claims, repairs or replacement of a damaged aircraft and its temporary or permanent loss from service. We cannot assure you that we will not be affected by such events or that the amount of our insurance coverage will be adequate in the event such circumstances arise and any such event could cause a substantial increase in our insurance premiums. In addition, any future aircraft emergency, accident or similar incident, even if fully covered by insurance or even if it does not involve our airline, may create a public perception that our airline or the equipment we fly is less safe or reliable than other transportation alternatives, or could cause us to perform time -consuming and costly inspections on our aircraft or engines which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

We are highly dependent upon our cash balances and operating cash flows.

As of December 31, 2016, our principal sources of liquidity were cash and cash equivalents of $612 million. In addition, we had restricted cash of $6 million as of December 31, 2016. Restricted cash includes certificates of deposit that secure letters of credit issued for particular airport authorities as required in certain lease agreements. Furthermore, as of December 31, 2016, we had access to a $50 million pre-purchased miles facility from which we had drawn $39 million of the amount available as of such date and we also had access to a $150 million facility to finance a portion of certain pre-delivery payments, or PDPs, from which we had drawn $143 million as of such date. These facilities are not adequate to finance our operations, and thus we will continue to be dependent on our operating cash flows and cash balances to fund our operations, provide capital reserves and to make scheduled payments on our aircraft-related fixed obligations, including substantial PDPs, on the aircraft we have on order. As of December 31, 2016, we were not subject to any credit card holdbacks, although if we fail to maintain certain liquidity and other financial covenants, our credit card processors have the right to hold back credit card remittances to cover our obligations to them, which would result in a reduction of unrestricted cash that could be material. In addition, while we recently have been able to arrange aircraft lease financing that does not require that we maintain a maintenance reserve account, we are required by some of our aircraft lessors, and could in the future be required, to fund reserves in cash in advance for scheduled maintenance to act as collateral for the benefit of lessors. In those circumstances a portion of our cash is therefore unavailable until after we have completed the scheduled maintenance in accordance with the terms of the operating leases. Based on the age of our fleet and our growth strategy, we expect these maintenance deposits to decrease as we enter into operating leases for newly-acquired aircraft that do not require reserves. If we fail to generate sufficient funds from operations to meet our operating cash requirements or do not obtain a line of credit, other borrowing facility or equity financing, we could default on our operating lease and fixed obligations. Our inability to meet our obligations as they become due would have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

Our ability to obtain financing or access capital markets may be limited.

We have significant obligations to purchase aircraft and spare engines that we have on order from Airbus and CFM International, an affiliate of General Electric Company, and our current strategy is to rely on lessors to provide financing for our aircraft acquisition needs. As of December 31, 2016, we had an obligation to acquire 82 aircraft, including 76 A320neo family aircraft and six A321ceo aircraft by 2021, the first 43 of which we intend

 

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to finance with operating leases, including 11 which are currently subject to committed operating leases and 32 which are subject to non-binding letters of intent. We intend to evaluate financing options for the remaining 39 aircraft. There are a number of factors that may affect our ability to raise financing or access the capital markets in the future, including our liquidity and credit status, our operating cash flows, market conditions in the airline industry, U.S. and global economic conditions, the general state of the capital markets and the financial position of the major providers of commercial aircraft financing. We cannot assure you that we will be able to source external financing for our planned aircraft acquisitions or for other significant capital needs, and if we are unable to source financing on acceptable terms, or unable to source financing at all, our business could be materially adversely affected. To the extent we finance our activities with additional debt, we may become subject to financial and other covenants that may restrict our ability to pursue our business strategy or otherwise constrain our growth and operations.

Our liquidity would be adversely impacted, potentially materially, in the event one or more of our credit card processors were to impose holdback restrictions for payments due to us from credit card transactions.

We currently have agreements with organizations that process credit card transactions arising from purchases of air travel tickets by our customers. Credit card processors may have financial risk associated with tickets purchased for travel which can occur several weeks after the purchase. As of December 31, 2016, we were not subject to any credit card holdbacks under our credit card processing agreements, although if we fail to meet certain liquidity and other financial covenants, our credit card processors have the right to hold back credit card remittances to cover our obligations to them. If our credit card processors were to impose holdback restrictions on us, the negative impact on our liquidity could be significant which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

We may be subject to competitive risks due to the long-term nature of our fleet order book and the unproven new engine technology utilized by the aircraft in our order book.

At present, we have existing aircraft commitments through 2021, the substantial majority of which are for Airbus’ A320neo family aircraft equipped with the Leap engine manufactured by CFM International, an affiliate of General Electric Company. The A320neo includes next generation engine technology as well as aerodynamic refinements, large curved winglets, weight savings, a new aircraft cabin with larger hand luggage spaces and an improved air purification system. While the A320neo represents the latest step in the modernization of the A320 family of aircraft, the aircraft only entered commercial service in January 2016 and we are one of the first airlines to utilize the A320neo and Leap engine. As a result, we are subject to those risks commonly associated with the initial introduction of a new aircraft type including with respect to the A320neo’s actual, sustained fuel efficiency and other projected cost savings, which may not be realized, as well as the reliability and maintenance costs associated with a new aircraft and engine. If we are unable to realize the potential competitive advantages we expect to achieve through the implementation of the A320neo aircraft into our fleet, our business, results of operations and financial condition could be materially adversely affected. While we have the option to convert the A319neo aircraft in our order book to A320neo aircraft, we have not yet exercised this option. If we are unable to convert these A319neos to A320neos on acceptable terms or at all, our business could be adversely affected if the A319neo, none of which has yet been delivered, proves to be an undesirable configuration. Furthermore, as technological evolution occurs in our industry, through the use of composites and other innovations, we may be competitively disadvantaged because we have existing extensive fleet commitments that would prohibit us from adopting new technologies on an expedited basis.

 

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Our maintenance costs will increase over the near term, we will periodically incur substantial maintenance costs due to the maintenance schedules of our aircraft fleet and obligations to the lessors and we could incur significant maintenance expenses outside of such maintenance schedules in the future.

The operating leases with respect to seven, 13 and three aircraft of our fleet are scheduled to terminate in 2017, 2018 and 2019, respectively. Prior to such aircraft being returned, we will incur costs to restore these aircraft to the condition required by the terms of the underlying operating leases. The amount and timing of these so-called “return conditions” costs can prove unpredictable due to uncertainty regarding the maintenance status of each particular aircraft at the time it is to be returned and it is not unusual for disagreements to ensue between the airline and the leasing company as to the required maintenance on a given aircraft or engine.

In addition, we currently have an obligation to acquire 82 aircraft by the end of 2021. We expect that these new aircraft will require less maintenance when they are first placed in service (sometimes called a “maintenance holiday”) because the aircraft will benefit from manufacturer warranties and also will be able to operate for a significant period of time, generally measured in years, before the most expensive scheduled maintenance obligations, known as heavy maintenance, are first required. Following these new initial maintenance holiday periods, the new aircraft we have an obligation to acquire will require more maintenance as they age and our maintenance and repair expenses for each newly purchased aircraft will be incurred at approximately the same intervals. Moreover, because a large portion of our future fleet will be acquired over a relatively short period, significant maintenance to be scheduled on each of these planes will likely occur at roughly the same time, meaning we will likely incur our heavy maintenance obligations across our fleet around the same time. These more significant maintenance activities result in out-of-service periods during which our aircraft are dedicated to maintenance activities and unavailable to fly revenue service.

Outside of scheduled maintenance, we incur from time to time unscheduled maintenance which is not forecast in our operating plan or financial forecasts, and which can impose material unplanned costs and the loss of flight equipment from revenue service for a significant period of time. For example, a single unplanned engine event can require a shop visit costing several million dollars and cause the engine to be out of service for a number of weeks.

Furthermore, the terms of some of our lease agreements require us to pay maintenance reserves to the lessor in advance of the performance of major maintenance, resulting in our recording significant prepaid deposits on our balance sheet. In addition, the terms of any lease agreements that we enter into the future could also require maintenance reserves in excess of our current requirements. We expect scheduled and unscheduled aircraft maintenance expenses to increase over the next several years. Any significant increase in maintenance and repair expenses would have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. Please see “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates—Aircraft Maintenance.”

We have a significant amount of aircraft-related fixed obligations that could impair our liquidity and thereby harm our business, results of operations and financial condition.

The airline business is capital intensive and, as a result, many airline companies are highly leveraged. As of December 31, 2016, our 66 aircraft fleet consisted of 60 aircraft financed under operating leases and six aircraft financed under secured debt arrangements. For the years ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014, we incurred aircraft rent of $209 million, $171 million and $147 million, respectively, and paid maintenance deposits net of reimbursements of $32 million, $23 million and $15 million, respectively. As of December 31, 2016, we had future operating lease obligations of approximately $2 billion and future principal debt obligations of approximately $241 million, of which $141 million is due during 2017. For the year ended December 31, 2016, we made cash payments for interest related to debt of $6 million. In addition, we have significant obligations for aircraft and spare engines that we have ordered from Airbus and CFM International for delivery over the next several years. Our ability to pay the fixed costs associated with our contractual obligations will depend on our

 

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operating performance, cash flow and our ability to secure adequate financing, which will in turn depend on, among other things, the success of our current business strategy, fuel price volatility, any significant weakening or improving in the U.S. economy, availability and cost of financing, as well as general economic and political conditions and other factors that are, to some extent, beyond our control. The amount of our aircraft related fixed obligations could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition and could:

 

    require a substantial portion of cash flow from operations be used for operating lease and maintenance deposit payments, thereby reducing the availability of our cash flow to fund working capital, capital expenditures and other general corporate purposes;

 

    limit our ability to make required PDPs, including those payable to our aircraft and engine manufacturers for our aircraft and spare engines on order;

 

    limit our ability to obtain additional financing to support our expansion plans and for working capital and other purposes on acceptable terms or at all;

 

    make it more difficult for us to pay our other obligations as they become due during adverse general economic and market industry conditions because any related decrease in revenues could cause us to not have sufficient cash flows from operations to make our scheduled payments;

 

    reduce our flexibility in planning for, or reacting to, changes in our business and the airline industry and, consequently, place us at a competitive disadvantage to our competitors with lower fixed payment obligations; and

 

    cause us to lose access to one or more aircraft and forfeit our maintenance and other deposits if we are unable to make our required aircraft lease rental payments and our lessors exercise their remedies under the lease agreement including cross default provisions in certain of our leases.

A failure to pay our operating lease, debt and other fixed cost obligations or a breach of our contractual obligations could result in a variety of adverse consequences, including the exercise of remedies by our creditors and lessors. In such a situation, it is unlikely that we would be able to cure our breach, fulfill our obligations, make required lease payments or otherwise cover our fixed costs, which would have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

We rely on third-party specialists and other commercial partners to perform functions integral to our operations.

We have entered into agreements with third-party specialists to furnish certain facilities and services required for our operations, including ground handling, catering, passenger handling, engineering, maintenance, refueling, reservations and airport facilities as well as administrative and support services. We are likely to enter into similar service agreements in new markets we decide to enter, and we cannot assure you that we will be able to obtain the necessary services at acceptable rates.

Although we seek to monitor the performance of third parties that furnish certain facilities or provide us with our ground handling, catering, passenger handling, engineering, maintenance, refueling, reservations and airport facilities, the efficiency, timeliness and quality of contract performance by third-party specialists are often beyond our control, and any failure by our third-party specialists to perform up to our expectations may have an adverse impact on our business, reputation with customers, our brand and our operations. In addition, we could experience a significant business disruption if we were to change vendors or if an existing provider ceased to be able to serve us. We expect to be dependent on such third-party arrangements for the foreseeable future.

We rely on third-party distribution channels to distribute a portion of our airline tickets.

We rely on third-party distribution channels, including those provided by or through global distribution systems, or GDSs, conventional travel agents and online travel agents, or OTAs, to distribute a portion of our

 

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airline tickets, and we expect in the future to rely on these channels to collect a portion of our non-ticket revenues. These distribution channels are more expensive and at present have less functionality in respect of non-ticket revenues than those we operate ourselves, such as our website. Certain of these distribution channels also effectively restrict the manner in which we distribute our products generally. To remain competitive, we will need to successfully manage our distribution costs and rights, and improve the functionality of third-party distribution channels, while maintaining an industry-competitive cost structure. Negotiations with key GDSs and OTAs designed to manage our costs, increase our distribution flexibility, and improve functionality could be contentious, could result in diminished or less favorable distribution of our tickets, and may not provide the functionality we require to maximize non-ticket revenues. In addition, in the last several years there has been significant consolidation among GDSs and OTAs, including the acquisition by Expedia of both Orbitz and Travelocity, and the acquisition by Amadeus of Navitaire (the reservations system that we use). This consolidation and any further consolidation could affect our ability to manage our distribution costs due to a reduction in competition or other industry factors. Any inability to manage such costs, rights and functionality at a competitive level or any material diminishment in the distribution of our tickets could have a material adverse effect on our competitive position and our results of operations. Moreover, our ability to compete in the markets we serve may be threatened by changes in technology or other factors that may make our existing third-party sales channels impractical, uncompetitive or obsolete.

We rely heavily on technology and automated systems to operate our business, and any failure of these technologies or systems or any failure on our part to implement any new technologies or systems could materially adversely affect our business.

We are highly dependent on technology and computer systems and networks to operate our business. These technologies and systems include our computerized airline reservation system provided by Navitaire, now a unit of Amadeus, flight operations systems, telecommunications systems, mobile phone application, airline website, maintenance systems and check-in kiosks. In order for our operations to work efficiently, our website and reservation system must be able to accommodate a high volume of traffic, maintain secure information and deliver flight information. The Navitaire reservations system, which is hosted and maintained under a long-term contract by a third-party specialist, is critical to our ability to issue, track and accept electronic tickets, conduct check-in, board and manage our passengers through the airports we serve and provide us with access to global distribution systems, which enlarge our pool of potential passengers. There are many instances in the past where a reservations system malfunctioned, whether due to the fault of the system provider or the airline, with a highly adverse effect on the airline’s operations, and such a malfunction has in the past and could in the future occur on our system, or in connection with any system upgrade or migration in the future. We also rely on third-party specialists to maintain our flight operations systems, and if those systems are not functioning, we could experience service disruptions, which could result in the loss of important data, increase our expenses, decrease our operational performance and temporarily stall our operations.

Any failure of the technologies and systems we use could materially adversely affect our business. In particular, if our reservation system fails or experiences interruptions, and we are unable to book seats for a period of time, we could lose a significant amount of revenue as customers book seats on other airlines, and our reputation could be harmed. In addition, replacement technologies and systems for any service we currently utilize that experiences failures or interruptions may not be readily available on a timely basis, at competitive rates or at all. Furthermore, our current technologies and systems are heavily integrated with our day-to-day operations and any transition to a new technology or system could be complex and time-consuming. In the event that one or more of our primary technology or systems vendors fails to perform and a replacement system is not available or if we fail to implement a replacement system in a timely and efficient manner, our business could be materially adversely affected.

 

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Unauthorized incursions of our information technology infrastructure could compromise the personally identifiable information of our passengers, prospective passengers or personnel and expose us to liability, damage our reputation and have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

In the processing of our customer transactions and as part of our ordinary business operations, we and certain of our third-party specialists collect, process, transmit and store a large volume of personally identifiable information, including email addresses and home addresses and financial data such as credit and debit card information. The security of the systems and network where we and our third-party specialists store this data is a critical element of our business, and these systems and our network may be vulnerable to computer viruses, hackers and other security issues. Recently, several high profile consumer-oriented companies have experienced significant data breaches, which have caused those companies to suffer substantial financial and reputational harm. While we have taken precautions to avoid an unauthorized incursion of our computer systems, we cannot assure you that our precautions are either adequate or implemented properly to prevent a data breach and its adverse financial and reputational consequences to our business. We are also subject to laws relating to privacy of personal data. The compromise of our technology systems resulting in the loss, disclosure, misappropriation of or access to the personally identifiable information of our passengers, prospective passengers or personnel could result in governmental investigation, civil liability or regulatory penalties under laws protecting the privacy of personal information, any or all of which could disrupt our operations and have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. Additionally, any material failure by us or our third-party specialists to maintain compliance with the Payment Card Industry security requirements or to rectify a data security issue may result in fines and restrictions on our ability to accept credit and debit cards as a form of payment.

We are subject to increasing legislative, regulatory and customer focus on privacy issues and data security in the United States and abroad. In addition, a number of our commercial partners, including credit card companies, have imposed data security standards on us, and these standards continue to evolve. We will continue our efforts to meet our privacy and data security obligations; however, it is possible that certain new obligations may be difficult to meet and could increase our costs. Additionally, we must manage evolving cybersecurity risks. The loss, disclosure, misappropriation of or access to the information of our customers, personnel or business partners or any failure by us to meet our obligations could result in legal claims or proceedings, liability or regulatory penalties.

We depend on a sole-source supplier for our aircraft and engines.

A critical cost-saving element of our business strategy is to operate a single-family aircraft fleet; however, our dependence on the Airbus A320-family aircraft and CFM International engines for all of our aircraft makes us vulnerable to any design defects or mechanical problems associated with this aircraft type or these engines. In the event of any actual or suspected design defects or mechanical problems with the Airbus A320-family aircraft or CFM International engines, whether involving our aircraft or that of another airline, we may choose or be required to suspend or restrict the use of our aircraft. Our business could also be materially adversely affected if the public avoids flying on our aircraft due to an adverse perception of the Airbus A320-family aircraft or CFM International engines, whether because of safety concerns or other problems, real or perceived, or in the event of an accident involving such aircraft or engines. Separately, if Airbus or CFM International becomes unable to perform its contractual obligations and we must lease or purchase aircraft from another supplier, we would incur substantial transition costs, including expenses related to acquiring new aircraft, engines, spare parts, maintenance facilities and training activities, and we would lose the cost benefits from our current single-fleet composition, any of which would have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. See also “—We may be subject to competitive risks due to the long-term nature of our fleet order book and the unproven new engine technology utilized by the aircraft in our order book.”

 

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Although we have significantly reconfigured our network since 2013, our business remains dependent on the Denver market and increases in competition or congestion or a reduction in demand for air travel in this market would harm our business.

We are highly dependent on the Denver market where we maintain a large presence with approximately 45% of flights as of December 2016 having Denver International Airport as either their origin or destination. We have experienced an increase in flight delays and cancellations at this airport due to airport congestion which has adversely affected our operating performance and results of operations. Also, flight operations in Denver can face extreme weather challenges in the winter which at times has resulted in severe disruptions in our operation and the incurrence of material costs as a consequence of such disruptions. Our business could be further harmed by an increase in the amount of direct competition we face in the Denver market or by continued or increased congestion, delays or cancellations. Our business would also be harmed by any circumstances causing a reduction in demand for air transportation in the Denver area, such as adverse changes in local economic conditions, health concerns, adverse weather conditions, negative public perception of Denver, terrorist attacks or significant price or tax increases linked to increases in airport access costs and fees imposed on passengers.

We are subject to extensive regulation by the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Transportation, Transportation Security Administration and other U.S. and foreign governmental agencies, compliance with which could cause us to incur increased costs and adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.

Airlines are subject to extensive regulatory and legal compliance requirements, both domestically and internationally, that involve significant costs. In the last several years, Congress has passed laws and the FAA, DOT and TSA have issued regulations, orders, rulings and guidance relating to the operation, safety, and security of airlines that have required significant expenditures. We expect to continue to incur expenses in connection with complying with such laws and government regulations, orders, rulings and guidance. Additional laws, regulations, taxes and increased airport rates and charges have been proposed from time to time that could significantly increase the cost of airline operations or reduce the demand for air travel. If adopted, these measures could have the effect of raising ticket prices, reducing revenue, and increasing costs. For example, the DOT has broad authority over airlines and their consumer and competitive practices, and has used this authority to issue numerous regulations and pursue enforcement actions, including rules and fines relating to the handling of extended tarmac delays, consumer complaints, price and airline advertising, oversales and involuntary denied boarding process, ticket refunds, liability for loss, delay or damage to baggage, customer service commitments, contracts of carriage and the transportation of passengers with disabilities. Among these is the series of Enhanced Airline Passenger Protection rules issued by the DOT. In addition, the FAA issued its final regulations governing pilot rest periods and work hours for all airlines certificated under Part 121 of the Federal Aviation Regulations. The rule known as FAR 117, which became effective January 4, 2014, impacts the required amount and timing of rest periods for pilots between work assignments and modifies duty and rest requirements based on the time of day, number of scheduled segments, time zones and other factors. In addition, Congress enacted a law and the FAA issued regulations requiring U.S. airline pilots to have a minimum number of hours as a pilot in order to qualify for an Air Transport Pilot license which all pilots on U.S. airlines must obtain. Compliance with these rules may increase our costs, while failure to remain in full compliance with these rules may subject us to fines or other enforcement action. FAR 117 and the minimum pilot hour requirements may also reduce our ability to meet flight crew staffing requirements.

We cannot assure you that compliance with these and other laws, regulations, orders, rulings and guidance will not have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

In addition, the TSA mandates the federalization of certain airport security procedures and imposes additional security requirements on airports and airlines, most of which are funded by a per ticket tax on passengers and a tax on airlines. We cannot forecast what additional security and safety requirements may be imposed in the future or the costs or revenue impact that would be associated with complying with such requirements.

 

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Our ability to operate as an airline is dependent on our maintaining authorizations issued to us by the DOT and the FAA. The FAA has the authority to issue mandatory orders relating to, among other things, operating aircraft, the grounding of aircraft, maintenance and inspection of aircraft, installation of new safety-related items, and removal and replacement of aircraft parts that have failed or may fail in the future. A decision by the FAA to ground, or require time-consuming inspections of or maintenance on, our aircraft, for any reason, could negatively affect our business, results of operations and financial condition. Federal law requires that air carriers operating scheduled service be continuously “fit, willing and able” to provide the services for which they are licensed. Our “fitness” is monitored by the DOT, which considers managerial competence, operations, finances, and compliance record. In addition, under federal law, we must be a U.S. citizen (as determined under applicable law). Please see “Business—Foreign Ownership.” While the DOT has seldom revoked a carrier’s certification for lack of fitness, such an occurrence would render it impossible for us to continue operating as an airline. The DOT may also institute investigations or administrative proceedings against airlines for violations of regulations. The DOT has several ongoing investigations of our compliance with consumer protection requirements.

International routes are regulated by air transport agreements and related agreements between the United States and foreign governments. Our ability to operate international routes is subject to change because the applicable agreements between the United States and foreign governments may be amended from time to time. Our access to new international markets may be limited by the applicable air transport agreements between the U.S. and foreign governments and our ability to obtain the necessary authority from the U.S. and foreign governments to fly the international routes. In addition, our operations in foreign countries are subject to regulation by foreign governments and our business may be affected by changes in law and future actions taken by such governments, including granting or withdrawal of government approvals and restrictions on competitive practices. We are subject to numerous foreign regulations in the countries outside the United States where we currently provide service. If we are not able to comply with this complex regulatory regime, our business could be significantly harmed. Please see “Business—Government Regulation.”

If we are unable to attract and retain qualified personnel at reasonable costs or fail to maintain our company culture, our business could be harmed.

Our business is labor intensive. We require large numbers of pilots, flight attendants, maintenance technicians and other personnel. We compete against other U.S. airlines for pilots, mechanics and other skilled labor and certain U.S. airlines offer wage and benefit packages exceeding ours. The airline industry has from time to time experienced a shortage of qualified personnel. In particular, as more pilots in the industry approach mandatory retirement age, the U.S. airline industry is being affected by a pilot shortage. As is common with most of our competitors, we have faced considerable turnover of our employees. As a result of the foregoing, we may not be able to attract or retain qualified personnel or may be required to increase wages and/or benefits in order to do so. If we are unable to hire, train and retain qualified employees, our business could be harmed and we may be unable to implement our growth plans.

In addition, as we hire more people and grow, we believe it may be increasingly challenging to continue to hire people who will maintain our company culture. Our company culture, which we believe is one of our competitive strengths, is important to providing dependable customer service and having a productive, accountable workforce that helps keep our costs low. As we continue to grow, we may be unable to identify, hire or retain enough people who meet the above criteria, including those in management or other key positions. Our company culture could otherwise be adversely affected by our growing operations and geographic diversity. If we fail to maintain the strength of our company culture, our competitive ability and our business, results of operations and financial condition could be harmed.

Our business could be materially adversely affected if we lose the services of our key personnel.

Our success depends to a significant extent upon the efforts and abilities of our senior management team and key financial and operating personnel. In particular, we depend on the services of our senior management

 

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team, particularly Barry L. Biffle, our President and Chief Executive Officer, and James G. Dempsey, our Chief Financial Officer. Competition for highly qualified personnel is intense, and the loss of any executive officer, senior manager, or other key employee without adequate replacement or the inability to attract new qualified personnel could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. We do not maintain key-man life insurance on our management team.

We rely on our private equity sponsor.

Our majority stockholder is presently an investment fund managed by Indigo Partners, a private equity fund with significant expertise in the ultra low-cost airline industry. This expertise has been available to us through the representatives Indigo has on our board of directors and through a Professional Services Agreement that was put in place in connection with the 2013 acquisition from Republic and pursuant to which we pay Indigo a fee of $1.5 million per year, plus expenses. Our engagement of Indigo pursuant to the Professional Services Agreement will continue until the date that Indigo and its affiliates own less than 10% of the 5.2 million shares of our common stock acquired by an affiliate of Indigo in December 2013. After this offering, Indigo may nonetheless elect to reduce its ownership in our company or reduce its involvement on our board of directors, which could reduce or eliminate the benefits we have historically achieved through our relationship with Indigo. For a further description of our Professional Services Agreement, please see “Certain Relationships and Related Party Transactions—Management Services.”

The requirements of being a public company may strain our resources, divert management’s attention and affect our ability to attract and retain qualified board members or executive officers.

As a public company, we will incur significant legal, accounting and other expenses that we did not incur as a private company, including costs associated with public company reporting requirements. We also have incurred and will incur costs associated with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, as amended, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, related rules implemented or to be implemented by the Securities and Exchange Commission, or the SEC, and the listing rules of the                      . The expenses incurred by public companies generally for reporting and corporate governance purposes have been increasing. We expect these rules and regulations to increase our legal and financial compliance costs and to make some activities more time-consuming and costly, although we are currently unable to estimate these costs with any degree of certainty. These laws and regulations could also make it more costly for us to obtain certain types of insurance, including director and officer liability insurance, and we may be forced to accept reduced policy limits and coverage or incur substantially higher costs to obtain the same or similar coverage. These laws and regulations could also make it more difficult for us to attract and retain qualified persons to serve on our board of directors or our board committees or as our executive officers and may divert management’s attention. Furthermore, if we are unable to satisfy our obligations as a public company, our common stock could be delisted, and we could be subject to fines, sanctions and other regulatory action and potentially civil litigation.

Our quarterly results of operations fluctuate due to a number of factors, including seasonality.

We expect our quarterly results of operations to continue to fluctuate due to a number of factors, including actions by our competitors, price changes in aircraft fuel and the timing and amount of maintenance expenses. As a result of these and other factors, quarter-to-quarter comparisons of our results of operations and month-to-month comparisons of our key operating statistics may not be reliable indicators of our future performance. In addition, seasonality may cause our quarterly and monthly results to fluctuate since passengers tend to fly more during the summer months and less in the winter months. We cannot assure you that we will find profitable markets in which to operate during the winter season. Lower demand for air travel during the winter months could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

 

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We will be required to assess our internal control over financial reporting on an annual basis, and any future adverse findings from such assessment could result in a loss of investor confidence in our financial reports, result in significant expenses to remediate any internal control deficiencies and have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

Pursuant to Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, as amended, and beginning with our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ending December 31, 2018, our management will be required to report on, and our independent registered public accounting firm to attest to, the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting. The rules governing management’s assessment of our internal control over financial reporting are complex and require significant documentation, testing and possible remediation. We are currently in the process of reviewing, documenting and testing our internal control over financial reporting. We may encounter problems or delays in completing the implementation of any changes necessary to make a favorable assessment of our internal control over financial reporting. In connection with the attestation process by our independent registered public accounting firm, we may encounter problems or delays in implementing any requested improvements and receiving a favorable attestation. In addition, if we fail to maintain the adequacy of our internal control over financial reporting, we will not be able to conclude on an ongoing basis that we have effective internal control over financial reporting in accordance with Section 404. If we fail to achieve and maintain an effective internal control environment, we could suffer material misstatements in our financial statements and fail to meet our reporting obligations, which would likely cause investors to lose confidence in our reported financial information. Additionally, ineffective internal control over financial reporting could expose us to increased risk of fraud or misuse of corporate assets and subject us to potential delisting from the                 , regulatory investigations, civil or criminal sanctions and litigation, any of which would have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

We may become involved in litigation that may materially adversely affect us.

From time to time, we may become involved in various legal proceedings relating to matters incidental to the ordinary course of our business, including patent, commercial, product liability, employment, class action, whistleblower and other litigation and claims, and governmental and other regulatory investigations and proceedings. In particular, in recent years, there has been significant litigation in the United States and abroad involving patents and other intellectual property rights. We have in the past faced, and may face in the future, claims by third parties that we infringe upon their intellectual property rights. Such matters can be time-consuming, divert management’s attention and resources, cause us to incur significant expenses or liability and/or require us to change our business practices. Because of the potential risks, expenses and uncertainties of litigation, we may, from time to time, settle disputes, even where we believe that we have meritorious claims or defenses. Because litigation is inherently unpredictable, we cannot assure you that the results of any of these actions will not have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

Our lack of membership in a marketing alliance could harm our business and competitive position.

Many airlines, including the domestic legacy network airlines (American, Delta and United) have marketing alliances with other airlines, under which they market and advertise their status as marketing alliance partners. These alliances, such as oneworld, SkyTeam and Star Alliance, generally provide for code-sharing, frequent flyer program reciprocity, coordinated scheduling of flights to permit convenient connections and other joint marketing activities. Such arrangements permit an airline to market flights operated by other alliance members as its own. This increases the destinations, connections and frequencies offered by the airline and provides an opportunity to increase traffic on that airline’s segment of flights connecting with alliance partners. We currently do not have any alliances with U.S. or foreign airlines. Our lack of membership in any marketing alliances puts us at a competitive disadvantage to traditional network carriers who are able to attract passengers through more widespread alliances, particularly on international routes, and that disadvantage may result in a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

 

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Risks Related to Owning Our Common Stock

The market price of our common stock may be volatile, which could cause the value of an investment in our stock to decline.

Prior to this offering, there has been no public market for shares of our common stock, and an active public market for these shares may not develop or be sustained after this offering. We and the representatives of the underwriters determined the initial public offering price of our common stock through negotiation. This price does not necessarily reflect the price at which investors in the market will be willing to buy and sell our shares following this offering. In addition, the market price of our common stock may fluctuate substantially due to a variety of factors, many of which are beyond our control, including:

 

    announcements concerning our competitors, the airline industry or the economy in general;

 

    strategic actions by us or our competitors, such as acquisitions or restructurings;

 

    media reports and publications about the safety of our aircraft or the aircraft type we operate;

 

    new regulatory pronouncements and changes in regulatory guidelines;

 

    changes in the price of aircraft fuel;

 

    announcements concerning the availability of the type of aircraft we use;

 

    general and industry-specific economic conditions;

 

    changes in financial estimates or recommendations by securities analysts or failure to meet analysts’ performance expectations;

 

    sales of our common stock or other actions by investors with significant shareholdings, including sales by our principal stockholders;

 

    trading strategies related to changes in fuel or oil prices; and

 

    general market, political and other economic conditions.

The stock markets in general have experienced substantial volatility that has often been unrelated to the operating performance of particular companies. Broad market fluctuations may materially adversely affect the trading price of our common stock.

In the past, stockholders have sometimes instituted securities class action litigation against companies following periods of volatility in the market price of their securities. Any similar litigation against us could result in substantial costs, divert management’s attention and resources and have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

If securities or industry analysts do not publish research or reports about our business or publish negative reports about our business, our stock price and trading volume could decline.

The trading market for our common stock depends in part on the research and reports that securities and industry analysts may publish about us or our business. If one or more of the analysts who cover us downgrade our stock or publish inaccurate or unfavorable research about our business, the trading price of our common stock would likely decline. If one or more of these analysts ceases to cover our company or fails to publish reports on us regularly, demand for our stock could decrease, which may cause the trading price of our common stock and the trading volume of our common stock to decline.

Purchasers of our common stock in this offering will experience immediate and substantial dilution in the tangible net book value of their investment.

The initial public offering price of our common stock is substantially higher than the net tangible book value per share of our common stock immediately after this offering. Therefore, if you purchase our common stock in

 

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this offering, you will incur an immediate dilution of $         in net tangible book value per share from the price you paid. In addition, as of December 31, 2016, we had outstanding options to purchase                  shares of our capital stock and                  unvested restricted stock awards. The exercise of these outstanding options or the vesting of these restricted stock awards will result in further dilution. For a further description of the dilution that you will experience immediately after this offering, see “Dilution” elsewhere in this prospectus.

The value of our common stock may be materially adversely affected by additional issuances of common stock or preferred stock by us or sales by our principal stockholder.

Any future issuances or sales of our common stock by us will be dilutive to our existing common stockholders. We had 5,237,756 million shares of common stock outstanding as of December 31, 2016. All of the shares of common stock sold in this offering will be freely tradeable without restrictions or further registration under the Securities Act. The holders of substantially all of our outstanding shares of our common stock have signed lock-up agreements with the underwriters of this offering, under which they have agreed, subject to certain exceptions, not to offer, sell, contract to sell, pledge or otherwise dispose of, directly or indirectly, any of our common stock or securities convertible into or exchangeable or exercisable for shares of our common stock, enter into a transaction which would have the same effect, without the prior written consent of certain of the underwriters, for a period of 180 days after the date of this prospectus. After this offering, an investment fund managed by Indigo, the holder of approximately 5.2 million shares of our common stock as of December 31, 2016, will be entitled to rights with respect to registration of such shares under the Securities Act pursuant to a registration rights agreement. Please see “Certain Relationships and Related Transactions—Registration Rights” elsewhere in this prospectus. Sales of substantial amounts of our common stock in the public or private market, a perception in the market that such sales could occur, or the issuance of securities exercisable or convertible into our common stock, could adversely affect the prevailing price of our common stock.

Indigo’s current control of the Company severely limits the ability of our stockholders to influence matters requiring stockholder approval and could adversely affect our other stockholders.

When this offering is completed, an investment fund managed by Indigo will beneficially own approximately     % of our outstanding common stock, assuming no exercise of the underwriters’ option to purchase additional shares of our common stock from Indigo as the selling stockholder. As a result, Indigo will be able to exert a significant degree of influence or actual control over our management and affairs and over matters requiring stockholder approval, including the election of directors, a merger, consolidation or sale of all or substantially all of our assets and other significant business or corporate transactions.

Until such time as Indigo beneficially owns shares of our common stock representing less than a majority of the voting rights of our common stock, Indigo will have the ability to take stockholder action by written consent without calling a stockholder meeting and to approve amendments to our amended and restated certificate of incorporation and amended and restated bylaws and to take other actions without the vote of any other stockholder. Investors in this offering will not be able to affect the outcome of any stockholder vote during such time. As a result, Indigo will have the ability to control all such matters affecting us, including:

 

    the composition of our board of directors and, through our board of directors, any determination with respect to our business plans and policies;

 

    our acquisition or disposition of assets;

 

    our financing activities, including the issuance of additional equity securities;

 

    any determinations with respect to mergers, acquisitions and other business combinations;

 

    corporate opportunities that may be suitable for us and Indigo;

 

    the payment of dividends on our common stock; and

 

    the number of shares available for issuance under our stock plans for our existing and prospective employees.

 

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This concentrated control will limit the ability of other stockholders to influence corporate matters and, as a result, we may take actions that our other stockholders do not view as beneficial. Indigo’s voting control may also discourage or block transactions involving a change of control of Frontier, including transactions in which you, as a stockholder, might otherwise receive a premium for your shares over the then-current market price. For example, this concentration of ownership could have the effect of delaying or preventing a change in control or otherwise discouraging a potential acquirer from attempting to obtain control of us, which in turn could cause the market price of our common stock to decline or prevent our stockholders from realizing a premium over the market price for their common stock. Moreover, Indigo is not prohibited from selling a controlling interest in us to a third party and may do so without your approval and without providing for a purchase of your shares of common stock. Accordingly, your shares of common stock may be worth less than they would be if Indigo did not maintain voting control over us.

For additional information about our relationship with Indigo, please see “Certain Relationships and Related Party Transactions” and “Principal and Selling Stockholder” elsewhere in this prospectus.

Our anti-takeover provisions may delay or prevent a change of control, which could adversely affect the price of our common stock.

Our amended and restated certificate of incorporation and amended and restated bylaws to be in effect immediately prior to the consummation of this offering contain provisions that may make it difficult to remove our board of directors and management and may discourage or delay “change of control” transactions, which could adversely affect the price of our common stock. These provisions include, among others:

 

    our board of directors is divided into three classes, with each class serving for a staggered three-year term, which prevents stockholders from electing an entirely new board of directors at an annual meeting;

 

    no cumulative voting in the election of directors, which prevents the minority stockholders from electing director candidates;

 

    the exclusive right of our board of directors to elect a director to fill a vacancy created by the expansion of the board of directors or the resignation, death or removal of a director, which prevents stockholders from being able to fill vacancies on our board of directors

 

    from and after such time as Indigo no longer holds a majority of the voting rights of our common stock, actions to be taken by our stockholders may only be effected at an annual or special meeting of our stockholders and not by written consent;

 

    from and after such time as Indigo no longer holds a majority of the voting rights of our common stock, special meetings of our stockholders can be called only by the Chairman of the Board or by our corporate secretary at the direction of our board of directors;

 

    advance notice procedures that stockholders, other than Indigo for so long as it holds a majority of the voting rights of our common stock, must comply with in order to nominate candidates to our board of directors and propose matters to be brought before an annual meeting of our stockholders may discourage or deter a potential acquirer from conducting a solicitation of proxies to elect the acquirer’s own slate of directors or otherwise attempting to obtain control of our company;

 

    from and after such time as Indigo holds less than a majority of the voting rights of our common stock, a majority stockholder vote is required for removal of a director only for cause (and a director may only be removed for cause), and a 66 23% stockholder vote is required for the amendment, repeal or modification of certain provisions of our certificate of incorporation and bylaws; and

 

    our board of directors may, without stockholder approval, issue series of Preferred Stock, or rights to acquire Preferred Stock, that could dilute the interest of, or impair the voting power of, holders of our common stock or could also be used as a method of discouraging, delaying or preventing a change of control.

 

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Certain anti-takeover provisions under Delaware law also apply to our company. We are subject to Section 203 of the Delaware General Corporation Law. Under Section 203, a corporation may not, in general, engage in a business combination with any holder of 15% or more of its voting stock unless the holder has held the stock for three years or, among other things, the board of directors has approved the transaction. Furthermore, our amended and restated certificate of incorporation to be in effect immediately prior to the consummation of this offering of this offering specifies that the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware will be the sole and exclusive forum for most legal actions involving actions brought against us by stockholders. We believe this provision benefits us by providing increased consistency in the application of Delaware law by chancellors particularly experienced in resolving corporate disputes, efficient administration of cases on a more expedited schedule relative to other forums and protection against the burdens of multi-forum litigation. However, the provision may have the effect of discouraging lawsuits against our directors and officers.

Our certificate of incorporation will contain a provision renouncing our interest and expectancy in certain corporate opportunities.

Our certificate of incorporation will provide for the allocation of certain corporate opportunities between us and Indigo. Under these provisions, neither Indigo, its portfolio companies, funds or other affiliates, nor any of their officers, directors, agents, stockholders, members or partners will have any duty to refrain from engaging, directly or indirectly, in the same business activities, similar business activities or lines of business in which we operate. For instance, a director of our company who also serves as a director, officer, partner or employee of Indigo or any of its portfolio companies, funds or other affiliates may pursue certain acquisitions or other opportunities that may be complementary to our business and, as a result, such acquisitions or other opportunities may not be available to us. These potential conflicts of interest could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations or financial condition, if attractive corporate opportunities are allocated by Indigo to itself or its portfolio companies, funds or other affiliates instead of to us. The terms of our certificate of incorporation are more fully described in “Description of Capital Stock.”

Our corporate charter and bylaws include provisions limiting ownership and voting by non-U.S. citizens.

To comply with restrictions imposed by federal law on foreign ownership of U.S. airlines, our amended and restated certificate of incorporation and amended and restated bylaws to be in effect immediately prior to the consummation of this offering restrict voting and control of shares of our common stock by non-U.S. citizens. The restrictions imposed by federal law currently require that no more than 24.9% of our stock be voted, directly or indirectly, or controlled by persons who are not U.S. citizens, that no more than 49.0% of our stock be held, directly or indirectly, by persons who are not U.S. citizens and that our president and at least two-thirds of the members of our board of directors and senior management be U.S. citizens. Our amended and restated certificate of incorporation and bylaws to be in effect immediately prior to the consummation of this offering provide that the failure of non-U.S. citizens to register their shares on a separate stock record, which we refer to as the “foreign stock record,” would result in a loss of their voting rights in the event and to the extent that the aggregate foreign ownership of the outstanding common stock exceeds the foreign ownership restrictions imposed by federal law. Our amended and restated bylaws further provide that no shares of our common stock will be registered on the foreign stock record if the amount so registered would exceed the foreign ownership restrictions imposed by federal law. If it is determined that the amount registered in the foreign stock record exceeds the foreign ownership restrictions imposed by federal law, shares will be removed from the foreign stock record in reverse chronological order based on the date of registration therein, until the number of shares registered therein does not exceed the foreign ownership restrictions imposed by federal law. We are currently in compliance with these ownership restrictions. See “Business—Foreign Ownership” and “Description of Capital Stock—Anti-Takeover Provisions of Our Certificate of Incorporation and Bylaws—Limited Ownership and Voting by Foreign Owners.”

 

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We expect to be a “controlled company” within the meaning of the                 , and, as a result, expect to qualify for, and intend to rely on, exemptions from certain corporate governance requirements. You will not have the same protections afforded to stockholders of companies that are subject to such requirements.

Following the consummation of this offering, we expect that Indigo will continue to control approximately     % of our outstanding common stock. As a result, we expect to be a “controlled company” within the meaning of the                      and exempt from the obligation to comply with certain corporate governance requirements, including the requirements that a majority of our board of directors consists of “independent directors,” as defined under the rules of the                     , and that we have a compensation committee and a nominating and corporate governance committee that are composed entirely of independent directors. These exemptions do not modify the requirement for a fully independent audit committee, which is permitted to be phased-in as follows: (1) one independent committee member at the time of our initial public offering; (2) a majority of independent committee members within 90 days of our initial public offering; and (3) all independent committee members within one year of our initial public offering. Similarly, once we are no longer a “controlled company,” we must comply with the independent board committee requirements as they relate to the compensation committee and the nominating and corporate governance committee, on the same phase-in schedule as set forth above, with the trigger date being the date we are no longer a “controlled company” as opposed to our initial public offering date. Additionally, we will have 12 months from the date we cease to be a “controlled company” to have a majority of independent directors on our board of directors.

If we utilize the “controlled company” exemption, you will not have the same protections afforded to stockholders of companies that are subject to all of the corporate governance requirements of the                     . Our status as a controlled company could make our common stock less attractive to some investors or otherwise adversely affect its trading price.

After the consummation of this offering, we do not intend to pay cash dividends for the foreseeable future.

Immediately prior to the consummation of this offering, we intend to declare a dividend in the amount of $                 per share (representing an aggregate distribution of $                    ). Investors in this offering will not be entitled to participate in such dividend. We currently intend to retain our future earnings, if any, to finance the further development and expansion of our business and do not intend to pay cash dividends in the foreseeable future. Any future determination to pay dividends will be at the discretion of our board of directors and will depend on our results of operations, financial condition, capital requirements, restrictions contained in current or future financing instruments, business prospects and such other factors as our board of directors deems relevant.

 

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SPECIAL NOTE REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS

This prospectus includes forward-looking statements. We have based these forward-looking statements largely on our current expectations and projections about future events and financial trends affecting the financial condition of our business. Forward-looking statements should not be read as a guarantee of future performance or results, and will not necessarily be accurate indications of the times at, or by, which such performance or results will be achieved. Forward-looking statements are based on information available at the time those statements are made and/or management’s good faith belief as of that time with respect to future events, and are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual performance or results to differ materially from those expressed in or suggested by the forward-looking statements. Important factors that could cause such differences include, but are not limited to:

 

    the competitive environment in our industry;

 

    changes in our fuel cost;

 

    changes in restrictions on, or increased taxes applicable to charges for, non-ticket products and services;

 

    the impact of worldwide economic conditions;

 

    air travel substitutes;

 

    threatened or actual terrorist attacks, global instability and potential U.S. military actions or activities;

 

    factors beyond our control, including air traffic congestion, weather, security measures, travel related taxes and outbreak of disease;

 

    our presence in international emerging markets;

 

    insurance costs;

 

    our ability to implement our business strategy successfully;

 

    our ability to keep costs low;

 

    our ability to grow or maintain our unit revenues or maintain our non-ticket revenues;

 

    increased labor costs, union disputes, employee strikes and other labor-related disruptions;

 

    our inability to expand or operate reliably and efficiently out of airports where we maintain a large presence;

 

    negative publicity regarding our customer service;

 

    our inability to maintain a high daily aircraft utilization rate;

 

    environmental and noise laws and regulations;

 

    our reputation and business being adversely affected in the event of an emergency, accident or similar incident involving our aircraft;

 

    our liquidity and dependence on cash balances and operating cash flows;

 

    our ability to obtain financing or access capital markets;

 

    our ability to maintain our liquidity in the event one or more of our credit card processors were to impose holdback restrictions;

 

    the long-term nature of our fleet order book and the unproven new engine technology utilized by the aircraft in our order book;

 

    our maintenance obligations;

 

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    aircraft-related fixed obligations that could impair our liquidity;

 

    our reliance on third-party specialists and other commercial partners to perform functions integral to our operations.

 

    our reliance on automated systems and the risks associated with changes made to those systems;

 

    use of personal data;

 

    our sole-source supplier for our aircraft and engines;

 

    our reliance on the Denver market;

 

    governmental regulation;

 

    our ability to attract and retain qualified personnel;

 

    loss of key personnel;

 

    reliance on private equity sponsor;

 

    operational disruptions;

 

    lack of marketing alliances; and

 

    other risk factors included under “Risk Factors” in this prospectus.

In addition, in this prospectus, the words “believe,” “may,” “estimate,” “continue,” “anticipate,” “intend,” “expect,” “predict,” “potential” and similar expressions, as they relate to our company, our business and our management, are intended to identify forward-looking statements. In light of these risks and uncertainties, the forward-looking events and circumstances discussed in this prospectus may not occur and actual results could differ materially from those anticipated or implied in the forward-looking statements.

All forward-looking statements attributable to us or persons acting on our behalf are expressly qualified in their entirety by the cautionary statements set forth above. Forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this prospectus. You should not put undue reliance on any forward-looking statements. We assume no obligation to update forward-looking statements to reflect actual results, changes in assumptions or changes in other factors affecting forward-looking information, except to the extent required by applicable law. If we update one or more forward-looking statements, no inference should be drawn that we will make additional updates with respect to those or other forward-looking statements.

 

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USE OF PROCEEDS

We estimate that the net proceeds to us from this offering will be approximately $        million, based on an assumed initial public offering price of $        per share (the mid-point of the price range set forth on the cover page of this prospectus) and after deducting the estimated underwriting discounts and commissions and estimated offering expenses payable by us. We will not receive any of the proceeds from any sale of shares in this offering by the selling stockholder, whether in the firm offering or upon any exercise of the underwriters’ option to purchase additional shares. Each $1.00 increase (decrease) in the assumed public offering price of $        per share would increase (decrease) the net proceeds to us from this offering, after deducting the estimated underwriting discounts and commissions and estimated offering expenses payable by us, by approximately $          million. We may also increase or decrease the number of shares we are offering. An increase (decrease) of 1,000,000 in the number of shares we are offering would increase (decrease) the net proceeds to us from this offering, after deducting the estimated underwriting discounts and commissions and estimated offering expenses payable by us, by approximately $          million, assuming that the assumed offering price stays the same. We do not expect that a change in the offering price or the number of shares by these amounts would have a material effect on our intended uses of the net proceeds from this offering, although it may impact the amount of time prior to which we may need to seek additional capital.

We currently expect to use the net proceeds from this offering as follows:

 

    approximately $        million to fund into a trust the expected cash portion of our obligations under the Pilot Phantom Equity Agreement for the benefit of the Participating Pilots in connection with the completion of this offering (assuming the mid-point of the price range set forth on the cover page of this prospectus); and

 

    the remainder for general corporate purposes, including cash reserves, working capital, capital expenditures, including flight equipment acquisitions, sales and marketing activities, and general and administrative matters.

Our expected use of the net proceeds to us from this offering represents our current intentions based upon our present plans and business condition. As such, our management will retain discretion over the use of the net proceeds from this offering.

Pending the use of the proceeds to be received by us from this offering, we intend to invest the net proceeds in interest-bearing, investment-grade securities, certificates of deposit or government securities.

 

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DIVIDEND POLICY

Immediately prior to the consummation of this offering, we intend to declare a dividend in the amount of $                 per share (representing an aggregate distribution of $                 after giving effect to related adjustments for the benefit of holders of stock options and phantom equity units). Investors in this offering will not be entitled to participate in such dividend.

In February 2016 and February 2017, we paid cash dividends with respect to our common stock in the amounts of $18.95 and $28.85 per share, respectively (representing aggregate obligations of $108 million and $165 million, respectively, after giving effect to related adjustments for the benefit of holders of stock options and phantom equity units).

We do not presently anticipate paying cash dividends after the completion of this offering. Any future determination as to the declaration and payment of dividends, if any, will be at the discretion of our board of directors and will depend on then existing conditions, including our financial condition, operating results, contractual restrictions, capital requirements, business prospects and other factors our board of directors may deem relevant.

 

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CAPITALIZATION

The following table sets forth our cash and cash equivalents, current maturities of long-term debt and capitalization as of December 31, 2016:

 

    on an actual basis; and

 

    on a pro forma as adjusted basis to give effect to (i) this offering and the application of the net proceeds to be received by us and (ii) a dividend expected to be paid immediately prior to the consummation of this offering.

You should read this capitalization table together with our financial statements and the related notes appearing at the end of this prospectus, the “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” section, and other financial information included in this prospectus.

 

     As of December 31, 2016  
     Actual      Pro Forma As
Adjusted(1)(2)
 
     (in millions)  

Cash and cash equivalents

   $ 612      $               
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

Current maturities of long-term debt

   $ 141     

Long-term debt, less current maturities

     96     

Stockholders’ equity:

     

Common stock (voting), $0.001 par value, 12,000,000 shares of common stock (voting) authorized, 5,237,756 shares issued and outstanding;                  shares authorized,                  shares issued and outstanding pro forma as adjusted

     

Common stock (non-voting), $0.001 par value, 2,000,000 shares of common stock (non-voting) authorized, no shares issued and outstanding;                              shares authorized,                          issued and outstanding pro forma as adjusted

     —       

Preferred stock (non-voting), $0.001 par value, 1,000,000 shares of common stock (non-voting) authorized, no shares issued and outstanding;                              shares authorized,                          issued and outstanding pro forma as adjusted

    
—  
 
  

Additional paid-in capital

     50     

Retained earnings

     395     

Accumulated other comprehensive income

     1     
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total stockholders’ equity

     446     
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total capitalization

   $ 683     
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

(1)

The unaudited adjusted pro forma capitalization table gives effect to (i) the receipt of the estimated net proceeds by us from the sale of shares of our common stock offered by us (based on an assumed initial public offering price of $                         per share, the midpoint of the price range set forth on the cover of this prospectus), after deducting the estimated underwriting discounts and commissions and estimated offering expenses payable by us, and the application of the net proceeds received by us, including the application of $                     million to fund into a trust the expected cash portion of our obligations under the Pilots’ Phantom Equity Agreement dated December 3, 2013, or the Pilot Phantom Equity Plan, for the benefit of certain current and former pilots, who we refer to as the Participating Pilots, in connection with the completion of this offering (based on an assumed initial public offering price of $                         per share, the midpoint of the price range set forth on the cover of this prospectus), and (ii) a dividend of

 

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  $                         per share (representing an aggregate distribution of $                        ) expected to be paid immediately prior to the consummation of this offering. See “Executive Compensation—Equity Compensation Plans—Pilot Phantom Equity Plan.”
(2) Each $1.00 increase or decrease in the assumed initial public offering price of $        per share would increase or decrease, respectively, the amount of cash and cash equivalents, additional paid-in capital, total stockholders’ equity and total capitalization by $        million (assuming the number of shares offered by us, as set forth on the cover page of this prospectus, remains the same), after deducting the estimated underwriting discounts and commissions and estimated offering expenses payable by us. We may also increase or decrease the number of shares we are offering. An increase or decrease of 1,000,000 in the number of shares we are offering would increase or decrease, respectively, the amount of cash and cash equivalents, stockholders’ equity and total capitalization by approximately $        million (based on an assumed initial public offering price of $                 per share, the midpoint of the price range as set forth on the cover page of this prospectus), after deducting the estimated underwriting discounts and commissions and estimated offering expenses payable by us. The pro forma as adjusted information is illustrative only, and we will adjust this information based on the actual initial public offering price and other terms of this offering determined at pricing.

The outstanding share information in the table above is based on 5,237,756 shares outstanding as of December 31, 2016, and excludes:

 

    an aggregate of 274,781 shares of common stock issuable upon the exercise of outstanding stock options as of December 31, 2016 having a weighted-average exercise price of $54.33 per share;

 

    an aggregate of 687,463 shares of common stock reserved for issuance pursuant to future awards under our 2014 Equity Incentive Plan, as amended, as of December 31, 2016, which will become available for issuance under our 2017 Equity Incentive Annual Plan after consummation of this offering;

 

    an aggregate of                  shares of common stock reserved for issuance pursuant to future awards under our 2017 Equity Incentive Award Plan, as well as any automatic increases in the number of shares of our common stock reserved for future issuance under this plan, which will become effective immediately prior to the consummation of this offering; and

 

    an aggregate of 231,000 shares of common stock reserved for issuance to the Participating Pilots pursuant to the Pilot Phantom Equity Plan (in connection with the offering contemplated hereby, 50% of the foregoing shares will be settled in cash through the establishment of a trust); please see “Executive Compensation—Equity Compensation Plans—Pilot Phantom Equity Plan.”

 

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DILUTION

If you invest in our common stock, your interest will be diluted to the extent of the difference between the initial public offering price per share of our common stock and the pro forma net tangible book value per share of our common stock immediately after the offering.

The historical net tangible book value (deficit) of our common stock as of December 31, 2016 was $         million, or $         per share. Historical net tangible book value per share is determined by dividing the net tangible book value by the number of shares of outstanding common stock. If you invest in our common stock in this offering, your ownership interest will be immediately diluted to the extent of the difference between the initial public offering price per share and the pro forma as adjusted net tangible book value per share of our common stock.

After giving effect to our issuance of              shares of common stock at an assumed initial public offering price of $        per share of common stock, the mid-point of the range of the estimated initial offering price of between $        and $        as set forth on the cover page of this prospectus, after deducting estimated underwriting discounts and estimated offering expenses payable by us, our pro forma net tangible book value as adjusted as of December 31, 2016 would have been approximately $        million, or approximately $        per pro forma share of common stock. This represents an immediate increase in pro forma net tangible book value of $        per share to our existing stockholders and an immediate dilution of $        per share to new investors in this offering.

The following table illustrates this dilution on a per share basis to new investors:

 

Assumed initial public offering price

      $               

Historical net tangible book value per share as of December 31, 2016

   $                  

Pro forma decrease in net tangible book value per share

     
  

 

 

    

Pro forma net tangible book value per share as of December 31, 2016

     

Increase in pro forma net tangible book value per share attributable to this offering

     
  

 

 

    

Pro forma net tangible book value per share, as adjusted(1)

     
     

 

 

 

Dilution in pro forma net tangible book value per share to new investors in this offering

      $  
     

 

 

 

 

(1) Pro forma net tangible book value per share, as adjusted, gives effect to (i) this offering and the application of $        million of the net proceeds to be received by us to fund into a trust the cash portion of our expected obligations under the Amended and Restated Phantom Equity Investment Agreement, dated December 3, 2013, or the Pilot Phantom Equity Plan, for the benefit of certain current and former pilots, who we refer to as the Participating Pilots, in connection with the completion of this offering (based on the assumed initial public offering price of $             per share, the mid-point of the price range set forth on the cover page of this prospectus), and (ii) a $        million dividend expected to be paid immediately prior to the consummation of this offering. Please see “Executive Compensation—Equity Compensation Plans—Pilot Phantom Equity Plan.”

Each $1.00 increase or decrease in the assumed public offering price of $        per share, the mid-point of the price range set forth on the cover page of this prospectus, would increase or decrease, respectively, our pro forma net tangible book value, as adjusted to give effect to this offering, by $        million, or $        per share, and the dilution per share to investors participating in this offering by $        per share (assuming that the number of shares offered by us, as set forth on the cover page of this prospectus, remains the same), after deducting estimated underwriting discounts and commissions and estimated offering expenses payable by us. We may also increase or decrease the number of shares we are offering. At the assumed public offering price per share, after deducting the estimated underwriting discounts and commissions and estimated offering expenses payable by us, an increase of 1,000,000 in the number of shares we are offering would increase our pro forma net tangible book

 

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value, as adjusted to give effect to this offering, by approximately $        million, or $        per share, and decrease the dilution per share to investors participating in this offering by $        per share, and a decrease of 1,000,000 in the number of shares we are offering would decrease our pro forma net tangible book value, as adjusted to give effect to this offering, by approximately $        million, or $        per share, and increase the dilution per share to investors participating in this offering by $        per share. The pro forma as adjusted information is illustrative only, and we will adjust this information based on the actual initial public offering price and other terms of this offering determined at pricing. We will not receive any of the proceeds from any sale of shares of our common stock in this offering by the selling stockholder, including if the underwriters exercise their option to purchase additional shares of our common stock from the selling stockholder; accordingly, there is no dilutive impact as a result of these sales.

The table below summarizes as of December 31, 2016, on a pro forma as adjusted basis described above, the number of shares of our common stock, the total consideration and the average price per share (i) paid to us by existing stockholders, and (ii) to be paid by new investors purchasing our common stock in this offering at an assumed initial public offering price of $         per share (in thousands except per share and percentage data).

 

     Shares Purchased     Total Consideration     Average Price
Per Share
 
     Number      Percent     Amount      Percent    

Existing Stockholders

                   $                                $               

New investors

                   $                   $  
  

 

 

    

 

 

   

 

 

    

 

 

   

Total

        100   $                     100  
  

 

 

    

 

 

   

 

 

    

 

 

   

The outstanding share information in the table above is based on 5,237,756 shares outstanding as of December 31, 2016, and excludes:

 

    an aggregate of 274,781 shares of common stock issuable upon the exercise of outstanding stock options as of December 31, 2016 having a weighted-average exercise price of $54.33 per share;

 

    an aggregate of 687,463 shares of common stock reserved for issuance pursuant to future awards under our 2014 Equity Incentive Plan, as amended, as of December 31, 2016, which will become available for issuance under our 2017 Equity Incentive Annual Plan after consummation of this offering;

 

    an aggregate of              shares of common stock reserved for issuance pursuant to future awards under our 2017 Equity Incentive Award Plan, as well as any automatic increases in the number of shares of our common stock reserved for future issuance under this plan, which will become effective immediately prior to the consummation of this offering; and

 

    an aggregate of 231,000 shares of common stock reserved for issuance to the Participating Pilots pursuant to the Pilot Phantom Equity Plan (in connection with the offering contemplated hereby, 50% of the foregoing shares will be settled in cash through the establishment of a trust); see “Executive Compensation—Equity Compensation Plans—Pilot Phantom Equity Plan.”

If the underwriters exercise in full their option to purchase additional shares of our common stock from the selling stockholder, our existing stockholders would own     % and our new investors would own     % of the total number of shares of our common stock outstanding upon completion of this offering. The total consideration paid by our existing stockholders would be approximately $        million, or     %, and the total consideration paid by investors purchasing shares in this offering would be $        million, or     %.

 

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SELECTED CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL AND OPERATING DATA

You should read the following selected consolidated historical financial and operating data below in conjunction with “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and the consolidated financial statements, related notes and other financial information included in this prospectus. The selected consolidated financial data in this section are not intended to replace the consolidated financial statements and are qualified in their entirety by the financial statements and related notes included in this prospectus.

We derived the selected consolidated statements of operations data for the years ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014 and the selected consolidated balance sheet data as of December 31, 2016 and 2015 from our audited consolidated financial statements included in this prospectus. We derived the selected consolidated statements of operations data for the one-month period ended December 31, 2013 (Successor) and 11-month period ended November 30, 2013 (Predecessor) and the selected consolidated balance sheet data as of December 31, 2014 and 2013 from our consolidated financial statements not included in this prospectus. We derived the selected consolidated statement of operations and balance sheet data for 2012 from the unaudited consolidated financial statements of our Predecessor, not included in this prospectus. The vertical line is intended to separate the predecessor and successor periods to indicate that such data may not be directly comparable. Our historical results are not necessarily indicative of the results to be expected in the future.

 

    Year Ended December 31,     2013
Successor
(from
December 1,
2013 to
December 31,
2013)
    2013
Predecessor
(from
January 1,
2013 to
November 30,
2013)
    Year ended
December 30,

2012
 
  2016     2015     2014        
                                  (unaudited)  
    (in millions, except for share and per share data)     (in millions)  

Consolidated Statements of Operations Data:

           

Operating revenues:

           

Passenger

  $ 988     $ 1,203     $ 1,328     $ 118     $ 1,093     $ 1,311  

Non-ticket

    726       401       265       13       125       127  
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total operating revenues

    1,714       1,604       1,593       131       1,218       1,438  
 

Operating expenses:

           

Aircraft fuel

    343       369       538       41       426       532  

Salaries, wages and benefits

    287       285       258       20       228       264  

Station operations

    228       202       162       14       132       108  

Aircraft rent

    209       171       147       11       160       148  

Sales and marketing

    72       79       87       7       78       98  

Maintenance materials and repairs

    48       50       39       4       61       61  

Depreciation and amortization

    75       54       29       2       28       29  

Special charge

    —         43       —         —         —         —    

Other operating

    135       118       105       11       103       167  
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total operating expenses

    1,397       1,371       1,365       110       1,216       1,407  
 

Operating income

    317       233       228       21       2       31  
 

Other expense (income):

           

Interest expense

    9       8       5       —         4       7  

Capitalized interest

    (6     (3     (1     —         (1     —    

Interest income and other

    (2     —         —         —         —         —    
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total other expense

    1       5       4       —         3       7  

Income (loss) before income taxes

    316       228       224       21       (1     24  

Income tax expense

    116       82       84       9       —         7  
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net income (loss)

  $ 200     $ 146     $ 140     $ 12     $ (1   $ 17  
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Earnings per share:

 

       

Basic

  $ 36.76     $ 26.60     $ 26.12        

Diluted

    36.23       26.15       25.75        

Weighted-average shares outstanding:

 

       

Basic

    5,236,978       5,247,477       5,203,058        

Diluted

    5,315,653       5,341,049       5,278,034        

 

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     Year Ended December 31,  
         2016              2015              2014      
     (in millions)  

Non-GAAP Financial Data (Unaudited):

        

Adjusted net income(1)

   $ 236      $ 194      $ 168  

EBITDA(1)

     392        287        257  

Adjusted EBITDA(1)

     436        345        301  

Adjusted EBITDAR(1)

     641        509        448  

 

(1) Adjusted net income, EBITDA, Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDAR are included as supplemental disclosures because we believe they are useful indicators of our operating performance. Derivations of net income and EBITDA are well recognized performance measurements in the airline industry that are frequently used by our management, as well as by investors, securities analysts and other interested parties in comparing the operating performance of companies in our industry.

Adjusted net income, EBITDA, Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDAR have limitations as analytical tools. Some of the limitations applicable to these measures include: Adjusted net income, EBITDA, Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDAR do not reflect the impact of certain cash charges resulting from matters we consider not to be indicative of our ongoing operations; EBITDA, Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDAR do not reflect our cash expenditures, or future requirements, for capital expenditures or contractual commitments; EBITDA, Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDAR do not reflect changes in, or cash requirements for, our working capital needs; EBITDA, Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDAR do not reflect the interest expense, or the cash requirements necessary to service interest or principal payments, on our debts; although depreciation and amortization are non-cash charges, the assets being depreciated and amortized will often have to be replaced in the future, and EBITDA, Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDAR do not reflect any cash requirements for such replacements; and other companies in our industry may calculate Adjusted net income, EBITDA, Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDAR differently than we do, limiting its usefulness as a comparative measure. Because of these limitations; Adjusted net income, EBITDA, Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDAR should not be considered in isolation or as a substitute for performance measures calculated in accordance with GAAP.

Further, we believe Adjusted EBITDAR is useful in evaluating our operating performance compared to our competitors because its calculation isolates the effects of financing in general, the accounting effects of capital spending and acquisitions (primarily aircraft, which may be acquired directly, directly subject to acquisition debt, by capital lease or by operating lease, each of which is presented differently for accounting purposes), and income taxes, which may vary significantly between periods and for different companies for reasons unrelated to overall operating performance. However, because derivations of Adjusted net income; EBITDA, Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDAR are not determined in accordance with GAAP, such measures are susceptible to varying calculations and not all companies calculate the measures in the same manner. As a result, derivations of Net income and EBITDA as presented may not be directly comparable to similarly titled measures presented by other companies.

The following table presents the reconciliation of Net income and Adjusted net income for the periods presented below.

 

     Year Ended December 31,  
         2016              2015              2014      
     (in millions)  

Net Income Reconciliation:

        

Net income

   $ 200      $ 146      $ 140  

Unrealized hedging (gains) losses(a)

     —          (35      35  

Lease Modification Program(b)

     16        67        —    

Pilot phantom equity(c)

     40        43        6  

Salaries, wages and benefits—severance(d)

     —          —          3  
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Adjusted net income before income taxes

     256        221        184  

Tax benefit related to underlying adjustments

     (20      (27      (16
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Adjusted net income

   $ 236      $ 194      $ 168  
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

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The following table presents the reconciliation of EBITDA, Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDAR to net income for the periods indicated below:

 

     Year Ended December 31,  
       2016              2015              2014      
     (in millions)  

EBITDA Reconciliation:

        

Net income

   $ 200      $ 146      $ 140  

Plus (minus):

        

Interest expense

     9        8        5  

Capitalized interest

     (6      (3      (1

Interest income

     (2      —          —    

Provision for income taxes

     116        82        84  

Depreciation and amortization

     75        54        29  
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

EBITDA

   $ 392      $ 287      $ 257  

Unrealized hedging (gains) losses(a)

     —          (35      35  

Lease Modification Program (excluding depreciation)(b)

     4        50        —    

Pilot phantom equity(c)

     40        43        6  

Salaries, wages and benefits—severance(d)

     —          —          3  
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Adjusted EBITDA

   $ 436      $ 345      $ 301  

Aircraft rent(e)

     205        164        147  
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Adjusted EBITDAR

   $ 641      $ 509      $ 448  
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

  (a) Represents adjustments for unrealized (gains) losses on our hedging contracts for anticipated fuel purchases as a result of hedge accounting on these cash flow hedges not being achieved.
  (b) Represents (i) a special charge of $43 million in 2015, primarily relating to aircraft maintenance obligations and non-recoverable maintenance deposits associated with the early termination of leases for 10 of our A319 aircraft and (ii) accelerated depreciation of $12 million and $17 million in 2016 and 2015, respectively, and aircraft rent of $4 million and $7 million in 2016 and 2015, respectively, as a result of significantly shortened lease terms with respect to such aircraft.
  (c) Represents the impact of the change in value and vesting of phantom stock units pursuant to the Pilot Phantom Equity Plan. See “Executive Compensation—Equity Compensation Plans—Pilot Phantom Equity Plan.”
  (d) Represents severance costs related to outsourcing of certain functions integral to our operations to third-party vendors as a part of the implementation of our new operating model.
  (e) Excludes the amounts of aircraft rent of $4 million and $7 million in 2016 and 2015, respectively, included in Lease Modification Program (excluding depreciation).

The following table presents our historical consolidated balance sheet data as of the dates presented.

 

     As of December 31,     As of
December 31,
2012
 
     2016      2015      2014      2013    
     (in millions)    

(in millions)

(unaudited)

 

Balance Sheet Data:

               

Cash and cash equivalents

   $ 612      $ 419      $ 263      $ 127     $ 36  

Total assets

     1,341        1,128        847        682       728  

Long-term debt, including current portion

     237        221        157        146       147  

Stockholders’ equity

     446        342        205        65       176  

 

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OPERATING STATISTICS

 

     Year Ended December 31,  
     2016     2015     2014     2013     2012  

Operating Statistics (unaudited)(A)

  

Available seat miles—ASMs (millions)

     18,366       15,229       12,332       10,880       11,908  

Departures

     99,369       97,222       92,184       81,940       85,328  

Average stage length (statute miles)

     1,060       1,002       897       903       976  

Block hours

     279,347       259,261       222,982       195,242       214,494  

Average aircraft in service

     61       56       54       52       55  

Aircraft in service—end of period

     66       61       54       53       55  

Average daily aircraft utilization (hours)

     12.6       12.6       11.4       10.2       11.0  

Passengers (thousands)

     14,937       13,184       12,203       10,783       10,700  

Average seats per departure

     173       154       147       145       143  

Yield per passenger mile

     6.17 ¢      8.97 ¢      11.91 ¢      12.29 ¢      12.39 ¢ 

Revenue passenger miles—RPMs (millions)

     16,015       13,400       11,152       9,854       10,579  

Load factor

     87.2     88.0     90.4     90.6     88.8

Passenger revenue per available seat mile—PRASM

     5.38 ¢      7.90 ¢      10.77 ¢      11.13 ¢      11.01 ¢ 

Non-ticket revenue per available seat mile

     3.95 ¢      2.63 ¢      2.15 ¢      1.26 ¢      1.03 ¢ 

Total revenue per available seat mile—RASM

     9.33 ¢      10.53 ¢      12.92 ¢      12.39 ¢      12.04 ¢ 

Cost per available seat mile—CASM

     7.61 ¢      9.01 ¢      11.07 ¢      12.19 ¢      11.79 ¢ 

Adjusted CASM(B)

     7.30 ¢      8.51 ¢      10.71 ¢      12.19 ¢      11.79 ¢ 

CASM (excluding fuel)

     5.74 ¢      6.58 ¢      6.71 ¢      7.89 ¢      7.32 ¢ 

Adjusted CASM (excluding fuel)(B)

     5.43 ¢      5.86 ¢      6.63 ¢      7.89 ¢      7.32 ¢ 

Fuel cost per gallon

     $1.59       $1.90       $3.26       $3.23       $3.36  

Fuel gallons consumed (thousands)

     215,830       194,846       164,845       144,448       158,362  

Employees (FTE)

     3,163       2,981       3,653       3,614       N/A  

 

(A) See “Glossary of Airline Terms” for definitions of terms used in this table.
(B) For a reconciliation of Adjusted CASM to CASM, see “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Results of Operations.”

 

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MANAGEMENT’S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF

FINANCIAL CONDITION AND RESULTS OF OPERATIONS

You should read the following discussion of our financial condition and results of operations in conjunction with the consolidated financial statements and the notes thereto included elsewhere in this prospectus. The following discussion contains forward-looking statements that reflect our plans, estimates and beliefs. Our actual results could differ materially from those discussed in the forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause or contribute to these differences include those discussed below and elsewhere in this prospectus, particularly in “Risk Factors.”

Overview

Frontier Airlines is an ultra low-cost carrier whose business strategy is focused on Low Fares Done Right®. We offer flights throughout the United States and to select international destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean. Our unique and sustainable strategy is underpinned by our low cost structure and superior ULCC brand. As of December 31, 2016, we operated a fleet of 66 narrow-body Airbus A320 family aircraft, which we expect to grow to 121, including 80 A320neo (New Engine Option) family aircraft, by the end of 2021. In the year ended December 31, 2016, we served approximately 14.9 million passengers across a network of 59 airports.

In December 2013, we were acquired by an investment fund managed by Indigo Partners LLC, or Indigo, an experienced and successful global investor in ultra low-cost carriers, or ULCCs. Following the acquisition, Indigo reshaped our management team to experienced veterans of the airline industry. Working with Indigo, our management team developed and implemented our unique Low Fares Done Right strategy, which significantly reduced our unit costs, introduced low fares, provided the choice of optional services, enhanced our operational performance and improved the customer experience. Through the implementation of our new operating model, we have positioned our brand as a premier ULCC in the United States and have seen a dramatic improvement to our profitability.

The implementation of Low Fares Done Right has significantly reduced our cost base over the past three years by increasing aircraft utilization, transitioning to larger aircraft, maximizing seat density, renegotiating our distribution agreements, realigning our network, replacing our call center, enhancing our website, boosting employee productivity and contracting with specialists to provide us with select operating and other services. As a result of these and other initiatives, we have reduced our adjusted cost per available seat mile, or Adjusted CASM (excluding fuel), from 7.89¢ for the year ended December 31, 2013 to 5.43¢ in the year ended December 31, 2016, an improvement of 31%. In 2016, this was one of the industry’s lowest unit operating costs in the United States. We believe that we are well positioned to maintain our relatively low unit operating costs through on-going strategic initiatives, including continuing our cost optimization efforts and further realizing economies of scale.

Fleet Plan

As of December 31, 2016, we had a fleet of 66 narrow-body Airbus A320-family aircraft, which we expect to grow to 121, including 80 A320neo family aircraft, by the end of 2021. We commenced operations with the A320neo family aircraft in October 2016. The A320neo is estimated to deliver approximately 15% improved fuel efficiency as compared to the prior generation of A320 aircraft. As of December 31, 2016, we had an obligation to acquire 82 aircraft, including 76 A320neo family aircraft and six A321ceo aircraft by 2021, the first 43 of which we intend to finance with operating leases, including 11 which are currently subject to committed operating leases and 32 which are subject to non-binding letters of intent. We intend to evaluate financing options for the remaining 39 aircraft. Of the 66 aircraft in our fleet, 60 are financed with operating leases, the last of which is scheduled to expire by 2028, and the remaining six are financed with debt. The operating leases with respect to seven, 13 and three aircraft of our fleet are scheduled to terminate in 2017, 2018 and 2019,

 

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respectively. Our fleet plan results in a reduced number of A319 aircraft, which we expect to replace with larger and higher density A320ceo aircraft (180 to 186 seats), A320neo aircraft (186 seats) and A321ceo aircraft (230 seats).

During 2015, we entered into an agreement, which we refer to as the Lease Modification Program, to amend our then-existing operating leases for 10 A319 aircraft, reducing their average remaining lease term from 41 months to 11 months, with no change in our base rent payments. As a result of the Lease Modification Program, in 2015 we incurred a one-time special charge of $43 million primarily related to aircraft maintenance deposits on aircraft to be returned earlier than we had previously planned. In addition, during 2016 and 2015, we accelerated depreciation expense of $12 million and $17 million, respectively, and rent expense of $4 million and $7 million, respectively.

We also entered into sale-leaseback transactions during 2016 and 2015 with six third-party lessors in order to finance deliveries of 30 of our A320 family aircraft purchase commitments, 14 and five of which were delivered during 2016 and 2015, respectively. Any gains on completed sale-leaseback transactions are deferred and recognized as a reduction in aircraft rent expense over the lease term for each aircraft.

Operating Revenues

Our operating revenue consists of passenger and non-ticket revenue.

Passenger Revenue. Passenger revenue consists of base fares for air travel, including miles redeemed under our frequent flyer program, unused and expired passenger credits, other redeemed or expired travel credits and revenue derived from charter flights. We had largely exited the charter business by the end of 2016.

Non-ticket Revenue. Non-ticket revenue consists primarily of revenue generated from air travel-related services such as baggage fees, seat selection fees, itinerary service fees, booking fees and on-board sales. We also include services not directly related to providing transportation such as the advertising, marketing and brand elements resulting from our Early Returns affinity credit card program and revenue associated with our Discount Den membership program.

Operating Expenses

Our operating expenses consist of the following items:

Aircraft Fuel. Aircraft fuel expense is our single largest operating expense. It includes jet fuel and associated into-plane costs, federal and state taxes, and gains and losses associated with fuel hedge contracts.

Salaries, Wages and Benefits. Salaries, wages and benefits expense includes salaries, hourly wages, bonuses, equity-based compensation and profit sharing paid to employees for their services, as well as related expenses associated with employee benefit plans, employer payroll taxes and other employee related costs.

Station Operations. Station operations expense includes the fixed and variable fees charged by airports for the use or lease of airport facilities and fees charged by third-party vendors for ground handling, interrupted trip expenses and other related services.

Aircraft Rent. Aircraft rent expense consists of monthly lease rents for aircraft and spare engines under the terms of the related operating leases and is recognized on a straight-line basis. Aircraft rent expense also includes that portion of maintenance reserves, also referred to as supplemental rent, which is paid monthly to aircraft lessors for the cost of future heavy maintenance events and which is not probable of being reimbursed to us by

 

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the lessor during the lease term, as well as lease return costs, which consist of all costs that would be incurred at the return of the aircraft including costs incurred to return the airframe and engines to the condition required by the lease. Aircraft rent expense is recognized net of any amortization of gains and losses on sale and leaseback transactions on our flight equipment. As of December 31, 2016, 60 of our 66 aircraft and all of our eight spare engines were financed under operating leases.

Sales and Marketing. Sales and marketing expense includes credit card processing fees, travel agent commissions and related global distribution systems, or GDS, fees, advertising, sponsorship and distribution costs such as the costs of our call center and costs associated with our frequent flyer program.

Maintenance Materials and Repairs. Aircraft maintenance expense includes the cost of all parts, materials and fees for repairs performed by us and our third-party vendors to maintain our fleet, excluding heavy maintenance events. It excludes direct labor cost related to our own mechanics, which are included in salaries, wages and benefits.

Depreciation and Amortization. Depreciation and amortization expense includes depreciation of fixed assets we own and amortization of leasehold improvements and finite-lived intangible assets. It also includes the amortization of heavy maintenance expenses we defer under the deferral method of accounting for heavy maintenance events and recognize as expense on a straight-line basis until the earlier of the next estimated heavy maintenance event or the remaining lease term.

Other Operating Expenses. Other operating expenses include outside services such as our third-party call center, crew and other employee travel, information technology, property taxes and all insurance, including hull-liability insurance, supplies, legal and other professional fees, facilities and all other administrative and operational overhead expenses. In addition, other operating expenses includes the annual fee of $1.5 million plus expenses that we pay to Indigo on a quarterly basis pursuant to the Professional Services Agreement. No individual item included in this category represented more than 5% of our total operating expenses for any period presented.

Other Expense (Income)

Interest Expense. Interest expense is related to our pre-delivery payment credit facility and our fixed and floating rate equipment notes.

Capitalized Interest. We capitalize interest attributable to pre-delivery payments as an additional cost of the related asset beginning two years prior to the intended delivery date, when we estimate the related aircraft has begun to be manufactured and when pre-delivery payments are required to be paid under the terms of our existing aircraft purchase contracts until the asset is ready for its intended use. We capitalize interest at our weighted-average interest rate on long-term debt or, where applicable, the interest rate related to specific borrowings.

Interest Income and Other. Interest income and other includes interest income on our cash and cash equivalent balances, as well as activity not classified in any other area of the consolidated statements of operations.

Trends and Uncertainties Affecting Our Business

We believe our operating and business performance is driven by various factors that typically affect airlines and their markets, including trends which affect the broader travel industry, as well as trends which affect the specific markets and customer base that we target. The following key factors may affect our future performance:

Competition. The airline industry is highly competitive. The principal competitive factors in the airline industry are the fare and total price, flight schedules, number of routes served from a city, frequent flyer programs, product and passenger amenities, customer service, fleet type and reputation. The airline industry is

 

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particularly susceptible to price discounting because, once a flight is scheduled, airlines incur only nominal incremental costs to provide service to passengers occupying otherwise unsold seats. Airlines typically use discount fares and other promotions to stimulate traffic during normally slower travel periods to generate cash flow and to increase revenue per available seat mile, or RASM. Discount fares are often prevalent when a competitor has excess capacity to sell.

During 2015 and 2016, the airline industry saw greater and more persistent price discounting than in the preceding several years. A major factor enabling price discounting was the sharp decline in oil prices on world markets, which significantly decreased airline operating costs. As a result, some of the legacy network carriers began seeking to match low-cost carrier and ULCC pricing on portions of their network. We believe that fare discounts have and will continue to stimulate demand for Frontier due to our Low Fares Done Right strategy.

Our Low Fares Done Right strategy is underpinned by our low cost structure, and we have significantly reduced our cost base over the past three years by increasing aircraft utilization and size, maximizing seat density, renegotiating our distribution agreements, realigning our network, replacing our call center, enhancing our website, boosting employee productivity and contracting with leading specialists to provide us with select operating and other services. As a result of these and other initiatives, we have reduced our unit operating costs, as measured by our CASM (excluding fuel), from 7.89¢ in 2013 to 6.71¢ in 2014 to 6.58¢ in 2015 and to 5.74¢ in 2016, and our Adjusted CASM (excluding fuel) from 7.89¢ in 2013 to 6.63¢ in 2014 to 5.86¢ in 2015 and to 5.43¢ in 2016 and currently have one of the industry’s lowest unit operating costs in the United States. For a reconciliation of CASM to Adjusted CASM (excluding fuel), see “—Results of Operations—2016 Compared to 2015—Operating Expenses.” Our unit operating costs in 2016 were comparable to the other U.S. ULCCs, Spirit Airlines and Allegiant Travel Company, and were substantially lower than U.S. low-cost carriers, or LCCs, which include JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines and Virgin America and approximately half of the legacy airlines, which include American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines. See “Industry Background.” Through our on-going strategic initiatives, we expect to enhance our competitive advantages, including continuing our optimization efforts and realizing economies of scale. Our cost structure has allowed us to achieve strong results from operations during these periods of competitive pricing and price discounts. To the extent that we are unable to maintain our low cost structure, our ability to compete effectively may be impaired. In addition, if our competitors engage in “fare wars” or similar behavior, our financial performance could be adversely impacted.

Aircraft Fuel. Fuel expense represents the single largest operating expense for most airlines, including ours. Jet fuel prices and availability are subject to market fluctuations, refining capacity, periods of market surplus and shortage and demand for heating oil, gasoline and other petroleum products, as well as meteorological, economic and political factors and events occurring throughout the world, which we can neither control nor accurately predict. The future cost and availability of jet fuel cannot be predicted with any degree of certainty.

We currently hedge our exposure to jet fuel prices using out-of-the-money call options, although we may utilize other instruments such as swaps and collar contracts on jet fuel or highly correlated commodities and fixed forward price contracts, or FFPs, which allow us to lock in the price of jet fuel for specific quantities and at specified locations in future periods. Although the use of collar structures and swap agreements can reduce the overall cost of hedging, these instruments carry more risk than call options in that we could end up in a liability position when the collar structure or swap agreement settles. Our fuel hedging policy considers many factors, including our assessment of market conditions for fuel, competitor hedging activity, our access to the capital necessary to purchase coverage and support margin requirements, the pricing of hedges and other derivative products in the market and applicable regulatory policies. As of December 31, 2016, we had hedges in place for approximately 73% of our projected fuel requirements in 2017 and approximately 20% of our projected fuel requirements for the month of January 2018, with all of our then existing call options expected to be exercised or expire by 2018.

 

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Volatility. The air transportation business is volatile and highly affected by economic cycles and trends. Consumer confidence and discretionary spending, fear of terrorism or war, weakening economic conditions, fare initiatives, fluctuations in fuel prices, labor actions, changes in governmental regulations on taxes and fees, weather and other factors have resulted in significant fluctuations in revenue and results of operations in the past. We believe, however, demand for business travel historically has been more sensitive to economic conditions than demand for low-price leisure and VFR travel. Therefore, we believe our business model is more resilient through economic cycles.

Seasonality. Our results of operations for any interim period are not necessarily indicative of those for the entire year because the air transportation business and our route network are subject to seasonal fluctuations. We generally expect demand to be greater in the calendar second and third quarters compared to the rest of the year. While we are reducing our concentration in Denver to decrease the impact of seasonality in our business, approximately 45% of flights as of December 2016 had Denver International Airport as either their origin or destination.

Labor. The airline industry is heavily unionized. The wages, benefits and work rules of unionized airline industry employees are determined by collective bargaining agreements, or CBAs. Relations between air carriers and labor unions in the United States are governed by the Railway Labor Act, or RLA. Under the RLA, CBAs generally contain “amendable dates” rather than expiration dates and the RLA requires that a carrier maintain the existing terms and conditions of employment following the amendable date through a multi-stage and usually lengthy series of bargaining processes overseen by the National Mediation Board, or NMB. This process continues until either the parties have reached agreement on a new CBA or the parties have been released to “self-help” by the NMB. In most circumstances, the RLA prohibits strikes. However, after release by the NMB, carriers and unions are free to engage in self-help measures such as lockouts and strikes.

We have seven union-represented employee groups comprising approximately 85% of our employees as of December 31, 2016. Our pilots are represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, or ALPA; our flight attendants are represented by the Association of Flight Attendants, or AFA-CWA; our aircraft technicians, aircraft appearance agents, material specialists and maintenance control employees are all represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, or IBT; and our dispatchers are represented by the Transport Workers Union, or TWU. Conflicts between airlines and their unions can lead to work stoppages. Except for the dispatchers, aircraft technicians and materials specialists, we are in negotiations with the union representing each group. During the fourth quarter of 2016, a new five-year collective bargaining agreement was reached with the dispatchers. Any agreements we do reach could increase our labor and related expenses. Please see “Business—Employees.”

On March 15, 2017, we entered into a Letter of Agreement, or the LOA, with the Association of Flight Attendants—CWA, AFL-CIO, or the AFA, the union representing our flight attendants. The LOA was the result of a negotiation between us and the AFA and extinguishes the flight attendants’ contingent equity participation contained in their collective bargaining agreement by providing for a $40 million aggregate cash settlement, payable by us to participating flight attendants over a six-month period commencing June 1, 2017.

Maintenance Materials and Repairs. The amount of total maintenance costs and related depreciation of heavy maintenance expense is subject to variables such as estimated usage, government regulations, the size, age and makeup of the fleet in future periods and the level of unscheduled maintenance events and their actual costs. Accordingly, we cannot reliably quantify future maintenance-related expenses for any significant period of time.

As of December 31, 2016, the average age of our aircraft was approximately six years. As of such date, our 66 aircraft fleet consisted of 60 aircraft financed under operating leases and six aircraft financed under secured debt arrangements. The operating leases with respect to seven, 13 and three aircraft of our fleet are scheduled to terminate in 2017, 2018 and 2019, respectively. We have a firm purchase commitment with Airbus to acquire 82 aircraft by the end of 2021. We also have a firm purchase commitment for 12 additional spare aircraft

 

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engines. We expect that our new aircraft will require less maintenance when they are first placed in service because the aircraft will benefit from manufacturer warranties and also will be able to operate for a significant period of time, generally measured in years, before heavy maintenance is required. Once these maintenance holidays expire, our fleet will require more maintenance as it ages and our maintenance and repair expenses for each of our aircraft will be incurred at approximately the same intervals. When these more significant maintenance activities occur, this will result in out-of-service periods during which our aircraft are dedicated to maintenance activities and unavailable to generate revenue.

We account for heavy maintenance events under the deferral method. Accordingly, heavy maintenance is depreciated over the shorter of either the remaining lease term or the period until the next estimated heavy maintenance event. As a result, maintenance events occurring closer to the end of the lease term will generally have shorter depreciation periods than those occurring earlier in the lease term. This will create higher depreciation expense specific to any aircraft related to heavy maintenance during the final years of the lease as compared to earlier periods. Please see “—Critical Accounting Estimates—Aircraft Maintenance.”

Maintenance Reserve Obligations. The terms of certain of our aircraft lease agreements require us to post deposits for future maintenance, also known as maintenance reserves, to the lessor in advance of and as collateral for the performance of heavy maintenance events, resulting in us recording significant prepaid deposits on our balance sheet. As a result, for leases requiring maintenance reserves, the cash costs of scheduled heavy maintenance events are paid in advance of the recognition of the maintenance event in our results of operations. Please see “—Critical Accounting Estimates—Aircraft Maintenance.”

Critical Accounting Estimates

We prepare our consolidated financial statements in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles in the United States, or U.S. GAAP. In doing so, we have to make estimates and assumptions that affect our reported amounts of assets, liabilities, revenue and expenses, as well as related disclosure of contingent assets and liabilities. To the extent that there are material differences between these estimates and actual results, our financial condition or results of operations would be affected. We base our estimates on past experience and other assumptions that we believe are reasonable under the circumstances, and we evaluate these estimates on an ongoing basis. We refer to accounting estimates of this type as critical accounting estimates, which we discuss below.

Revenue Recognition

Passenger Revenue. We generate the majority of our revenue from sales of passenger tickets. We initially defer ticket sales as an air traffic liability and recognize passenger revenue when the passenger flight occurs. An unused nonrefundable ticket expires at the date of scheduled travel and is recognized as revenue at that date. Customers may elect to change their itinerary prior to the date of departure. A service fee is assessed and recognized as non-ticket revenue on the date the change is initiated and deducted from the face value of the original purchase price of the ticket. The original ticket becomes invalid. The amount remaining after deducting the service fee is a credit that can be used towards the purchase of a new ticket. The recorded value of the credit is calculated based on the original value less the service fee and estimated breakage, which is based on historical experience and is recognized at the original date of departure. Estimating the amount of breakage involves some level of subjectivity and judgment. Charter revenue is recognized at the time of departure when transportation is provided.

Non-ticket Revenue. We recognize non-ticket revenue for baggage fees, seat selection fees and on-board sales when the associated flight occurs and change and booking fee revenue as the transactions occur. We also recognize non-ticket revenue for our bundled products, The Works and The Perks. Fees sold in advance of the flight date are initially recorded as an air traffic liability. Non-ticket revenue also includes services not directly related to providing transportation, such as revenue from our Early Returns affinity credit card program, as described in “—Frequent Flyer Program,” and our Discount Den membership program.

 

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Frequent Flyer Program

Our Early Returns frequent flyer program provides frequent flyer travel awards to program members based on accumulated miles. Miles are accumulated as a result of travel, purchases using the co-branded credit card and purchases from other participating partners. The program has a six-month expiration period for unused miles from the month of last account activity, excluding redemption activity. For all miles earned under the Early Returns program, we have an obligation to provide future travel when these reward miles are redeemed.

With respect to miles earned as a result of travel, or flown miles, we recognize a liability, representing the incremental cost associated with the obligation to provide travel in the future, as miles are earned by passengers. Incremental cost for miles to be redeemed on our flights is estimated based on historical costs, which include the cost of aircraft fuel, insurance, security, ticketing and reservation costs, net of redemption fees. We adjust our liability periodically for changes in our estimate of incremental cost, average miles to redeem and breakage estimates.

We sell award miles to participating companies, including credit card and car rental companies. We account for member miles sold to our partners as multiple-element arrangements. These arrangements consist of three elements: (i) travel miles to be awarded, (ii) licensing of brand and access to member lists, and (iii) advertising and marketing efforts. We established the estimated selling price for all deliverables that qualify for separation and allocated arrangement consideration based on relative selling price. In establishing the selling price, we first determined whether vendor-specific objective evidence of selling price or third-party evidence of selling price existed. We determined that neither vendor-specific objective evidence of selling price nor third-party evidence existed due to the uniqueness of our program. As such, we developed our best estimate of the selling price for all deliverables. For the selling price of travel, we considered a number of entity-specific factors including the number of miles needed to redeem an award, average fare of comparable segments, breakage, restrictions and other charges. For licensing of brand and access to member lists, we considered both market-specific factors and entity-specific factors, including general profit margins realized in the marketplace/industry, brand power, market royalty rates and size of customer base. For the advertising and marketing element, we considered market-specific factors and entity-specific factors including our internal costs of providing services, volume of marketing efforts and overall advertising plan. Consideration allocated based on the relative selling price to both brand licensing and advertising elements is recognized as non-ticket revenue in the month of sale.

The consideration allocated to the transportation portion of these mileage sales is deferred and recognized as passenger revenue based on the redemption method. Breakage is recorded under the redemption method using miles expected to be redeemed and the recorded deferred revenue balance to determine a weighted-average rate, which is then applied to the actual miles redeemed. Redemptions are allocated between sold and flown miles based on historical patterns. Current and future changes to the expiration policy or to program rules and program redemption opportunities may result in material changes to the frequent flyer liability balance, as well as recognized revenue from the program. In addition, there are pending significant changes in the manner in which airlines account for frequent flyer programs. For instance, see “Recent Accounting Pronouncements.”

Aircraft Maintenance

Under our aircraft operating lease agreements and FAA operating regulations, we are obligated to perform all required maintenance activities on our fleet, including component repairs, scheduled air frame checks and major engine restoration events. Heavy maintenance events include six-year and 12-year airframe checks, engine overhauls, limited life parts replacement and overhauls to major components. Certain maintenance functions are performed by third-party specialists under contracts that require payment based on a utilization measure such as flight hours.

We account for heavy maintenance under the deferral method wherein the cost of heavy maintenance is deferred in flight equipment and depreciated over the earlier of the period until the next estimated heavy

 

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maintenance event or the remaining lease term or useful life of the aircraft. Heavy maintenance events occurring closer to the end of the lease term will be amortized over the remaining lease term rather than over the period to the next estimated heavy maintenance event. Costs incurred for maintenance and repair under flight hour maintenance contracts, where labor and materials price risks have been transferred to the third-party service provider, are expensed based on contractual payment terms. Routine cost for maintaining the airframes and engines and line maintenance are charged to maintenance materials and repairs expense as performed.

The timing and cost of the next heavy maintenance event is estimated based on assumptions including estimated usage, FAA-mandated maintenance intervals, current condition of the related component, the age of the related component and average removal times as suggested by the manufacturer. These assumptions may change based on changes in the utilization of our aircraft, changes in government regulations and suggested manufacturer maintenance intervals. In addition, these assumptions can be affected by unplanned incidents that could damage an airframe, engine or major component to a level that would require a heavy maintenance event prior to a scheduled maintenance event. To the extent the estimated timing of the next maintenance event is extended or shortened, the related depreciation period would be lengthened or shortened prospectively, resulting in lower depreciation expense over a longer period or higher depreciation expense over a shorter period, respectively.

Maintenance Reserves

Certain of our aircraft and spare engine lease agreements provide that we pay maintenance reserves to aircraft lessors to be held as collateral in advance of our required performance of heavy maintenance events. As of December 31, 2016, our scheduled lease returns and the applicability of maintenance reserves for our leased aircraft were as follows:

 

     A319      A320ceo      A320neo      A321      Total  

Scheduled Lease Returns:

              

2017

     4        3        —          —          7  

2018

     10        3        —          —          13  

2019

     2        1        —          —          3  

2020

     2        1        —          —          3  

2021

     —          1        —          —          1  

2022

     —          4        —          —          4  

Thereafter

     —          12        4        13        29  
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total

     18        25        4        13        60  
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Maintenance Reserves:

              

Not subject to maintenance reserves

     —          5        —          13        18  

Subject to maintenance reserves if certain thresholds are not met

     —          4        4        —          8  

Subject to maintenance reserves(a)

     18        16        —          —          34  
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total

     18        25        4        13        60  
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

(a) Leases requiring maintenance reserves to be paid are scheduled to expire at the end of 2022.

Our lease agreements with maintenance reserve requirements provide that maintenance reserves are reimbursable to us upon completion of the maintenance event in an amount equal to the lesser of either (1) the amount of the maintenance reserve held by the lessor associated with the specific maintenance event or (2) the qualifying costs related to the specific maintenance event. Substantially all of these maintenance reserve payments are calculated based on a utilization measure, such as flight hours or cycles and are used solely to collateralize the lessor for maintenance time run off the aircraft until the completion of the maintenance of the aircraft. We retain the risk for the actual cause of the event.

 

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At lease inception and at each balance sheet date, we assess whether the maintenance reserve payments required by the lease agreements are substantively and contractually related to the maintenance of the leased asset. Maintenance reserve payments that are substantively and contractually related to the maintenance of the leased asset are accounted for as maintenance deposits. Maintenance reserves expected to be recovered from lessors are reflected as aircraft maintenance deposits on our balance sheets. When it is not probable we will recover amounts currently on deposit with a lessor, such amounts are expensed as supplemental rent.

We make various assumptions to determine the recoverability of maintenance reserves, such as the estimated time between the maintenance events, the date the aircraft is due to be returned to the lessor and the number of flight hours and cycles the aircraft is estimated to be utilized before it is returned to the lessor. Changes in estimates are accounted for on a cumulative catch-up basis.

Certain of our lease agreements also provide that some or all of the maintenance reserves held by the lessor at the expiration of the lease are nonrefundable to us and will be retained by the lessor. Consequently, we have determined that any usage-based maintenance reserve payments after the last major maintenance event are not substantively related to the maintenance of the leased asset and therefore are accounted for as supplemental rent. We expect to incur maintenance reserves after the last major maintenance events resulting in higher rent expense in the final years of applicable leases. Maintenance reserves held by lessors that are refundable to us at the expiration of the lease are accounted for as aircraft maintenance deposits on the balance sheet when they are paid and offset any related lease return costs.

Leased Aircraft Return Costs

Our aircraft lease agreements often contain provisions that require us to return aircraft airframes and engines to the lessor in a specified condition or pay an amount to the lessor based on the actual return condition of the equipment. Leased return costs are recorded as a component of aircraft rent and are characterized as maintenance reserves. Our accrual is based on the time remaining on the lease, planned aircraft usage and the provisions included in the lease agreement, although the actual amount due to any lessor upon return will not be known with certainty until lease termination.

Lease return costs include all costs that would be incurred at the return of the aircraft including costs incurred to repair the airframe and engines to the required condition as specified by the lease. Lease return costs could include, but are not limited to, redelivery cost, redelivery crew cost, final inspections, reconfiguration of the cabin, repairs to the airframe and airframe overhauls, painting, overhaul of engines, replacement of components and fuel. Such estimated costs exclude the costs of maintenance events that are covered by reserves on deposit with the relevant lessor or routine maintenance costs that are recorded in maintenance expense.

Lease return costs are recognized beginning when it is probable that such costs will be incurred and they can be estimated. Incurrence of lease return costs becomes probable and the amount of those costs can typically be estimated near the end of the lease term. When determining probability and estimated cost, there are various factors that need to be considered such as the current condition of the aircraft, the age of the aircraft at lease expiration, the number of hours run on the engines, the number of cycles run on the airframe, the projected number of hours run on the engine at the time of return, the number of projected cycles run on the airframe at the time of return, the extent of repairs needed, if any, at return, the return location, the current configuration of the aircraft, the current paint of the aircraft, the estimated escalation of cost of repairs and materials at the time of return and the current flight hour agreement rates.

In addition, typically near the lease return date, the lessors may allow reserves to be applied as return condition consideration or pass on certain return provisions if they do not align with their current plans to remarket the aircraft. When costs become both probable and estimable, they are accrued on a straight-line basis as contingent rent through the remaining lease term. Because we expect return costs to be estimable near the end of the lease term, contingent rent for related aircraft will be higher near the end of the lease term. We expect to

 

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incur significant return costs in 2017 and 2018 because the leases with respect to seven and 13, respectively, of our aircraft that we acquired from our predecessor are scheduled to terminate. We cannot estimate such costs with precision because they depend on a number of operating and other factors, including aircraft utilization, the result of aircraft inspections and the actual cost of maintenance events or other costs related to the return of a given aircraft.

Measurement of Asset Impairment

Our indefinite-lived intangible assets consist of take-off and landing slots at LaGuardia Airport (LGA) and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) and trademarks. Because we have determined these are intangible assets with indefinite lives, we apply a fair value-based impairment test to the carrying value of such intangible assets annually on October 1st, or more frequently if certain events or circumstances indicate that an impairment loss may have been incurred. We assess the value of indefinite-lived assets under either a qualitative or quantitative approach. Under a qualitative approach, we consider various market factors, including applicable key assumptions listed below. These factors are analyzed to determine if events and circumstances have affected the fair value of indefinite-lived intangible assets. If we determine that it is more likely than not that the value of an indefinite-lived intangible asset is impaired, the quantitative approach is used to assess the asset’s fair value and the amount of the impairment. If the asset’s carrying value exceeds its fair value calculated using the quantitative approach, an impairment charge is recorded for the difference in fair value and carrying value. No impairment charges were recorded in 2015 or 2016 after we completed this analysis.

Factors which could result in future impairment of owned landing slots include, but are not limited to, an unfavorable change in competition in the slotted airport or a nearby airport and significantly higher prices for jet fuel. As part of this evaluation, we assess whether changes in macroeconomic conditions, industry and market conditions, cost factors, overall financial performance and certain events specific to us have occurred which would impact the use and/or fair value of these assets.

Finite-lived intangible assets consist primarily of our affinity credit card program relationship established in connection with our acquisition by Indigo and are amortized over their estimated economic useful lives.

We record impairment charges on long-lived assets used in operations and finite-lived intangible assets when events and circumstances indicate that the assets may be impaired, the undiscounted cash flows estimated to be generated by those assets are less than the carrying amount of those assets and the net book value of the assets exceeds their estimated fair value. In making these determinations, we use certain assumptions, including, but not limited to, estimated fair value of the assets and estimated, undiscounted future cash flows expected to be generated by these assets, which are based on additional assumptions, such as expected asset utilization, expected length of service the asset will be used in our operations and estimated salvage values. No impairment charges were recorded in 2016 or 2015 after we completed this analysis.

Derivative Instruments

Our results of operations can vary materially due to changes in the price and availability of aircraft fuel. We may enter into derivative contracts, such as purchased call options, collars or swaps, in order to reduce our exposure to fuel price increases. Derivative instruments are stated at fair value, net of any collateral postings.

Beginning in 2015, we formally designated and accounted for the derivative instruments that met established accounting criteria under U.S. GAAP as cash flow hedges. For derivative instruments that are designated and qualify as cash flow hedges, the effective portion of the gain or loss on the derivative instruments is recorded in accumulated other comprehensive income/loss, or AOCI/L, a component of stockholders’ equity in the consolidated balance sheets. In general, we recognize the associated gains or losses deferred in AOCI/L as a component of aircraft fuel expense in the period that the jet fuel is consumed. Ineffectiveness, if any, related to our changes in estimates about the forecasted transaction is recognized directly in earnings during the period

 

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incurred. For derivative instruments that are not designated as cash flow hedges, the gain or loss on the instrument is recognized in current period earnings. We did not have any derivative instruments designated as cash flow hedges during the year-ended December 31, 2014.

Stock-Based Compensation

On December 3, 2013, to give effect to the reorganization of our corporate structure in connection with the acquisition by Indigo, an agreement was reached to amend and restate a phantom equity agreement that was in place with our predecessor and Frontier pre-acquisition. Under the terms of this agreement, our pilots employed by Frontier in June 2011, when an amendment to the underlying collective bargaining agreement was approved, who we refer to as the Participating Pilots, through their agent, FAPAInvest, LLC, received phantom equity units which were the economic equivalent of 231,000 shares of our common stock, representing 4% of our common stock as of June 30, 2014. Each unit constitutes the right to receive common stock or cash in connection with certain events, including a qualifying initial public offering, such stock to be distributed or cash paid to the Participating Pilots in installments in 2020 and 2022 based on a predetermined formula. The phantom equity units were fully vested at December 31, 2016 and are subject to adjustment for certain events, including cash dividends declared with respect to our common stock.

In August 2011, Frontier obtained concessions from its flight attendants in exchange for a contingent contractual equity participation in Frontier, which was subject to performance conditions. At December 31, 2016 and 2015, the performance conditions giving rise to the contingent equity participation in Frontier for the flight attendants had not been achieved. Therefore, no liability or corresponding stock-based compensation had been recorded for any period. On March 15, 2017, Frontier entered in to a Letter of Agreement, or LOA, with the union representing our flight attendants (AFA-CWA). The LOA was the result of a negotiation between Frontier and the AFA-CWA and extinguishes the flight attendants’ contingent contractual equity participation in Frontier by providing a $40 million aggregate cash settlement of their contingent contractual equity participation in Frontier, payable by Frontier to participating flight attendants over a six-month period commencing June 1, 2017.

We also grant stock options and restricted stock awards to the members of our board of directors and certain employees and consultants. Our policy is to grant options with an exercise price equal to the fair market value of the underlying common stock on the date of grant. During 2016, 53,475 stock options were granted and 1,455 shares of restricted stock awards were issued. Generally, stock options vest over four years. At December 31, 2016, there was $5 million of total unrecognized compensation cost related to share-based grants to be recognized over approximately two years.

We measure and recognize compensation expense related to all stock-based awards, including stock options, based on their estimated fair value on the grant date for awards to employees. The fair value of each stock-based award is estimated on the grant date using the Black-Scholes option-pricing model. Restricted stock awards are valued at the fair value of the shares on the date of grant. We recognize stock-based compensation expense, net of forfeitures, on a straight-line basis over the requisite service periods of the awards, which are generally four years. Forfeitures are recognized as they occur. We account for phantom stock units using the liability method because our phantom stock units can be redeemed for either cash or common stock. Fair value is re-measured at the end of each reporting period and is based on our common stock valuation. Compensation expense for phantom stock units is recognized on a straight-line basis over the vesting period based on the award’s estimated fair value.

Common Stock Valuation

We believe that our board of directors has the relevant experience and expertise to determine the fair value of our common stock. As described below, the exercise price of our stock-based awards was determined by our board of directors based, in part, on the most recent third-party valuation report obtained by our board of directors as of the grant date. There were significant judgments and estimates inherent in these valuations, which included assumptions regarding our future operating performance, the time to complete an initial public offering

 

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or other liquidity event and the determinations of the appropriate valuation methods to be applied. If we had made different estimates or assumptions, our stock-based compensation expense, net income and net income per share could have been significantly different.

Given the absence of a public trading market for our common stock, and in accordance with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants Practice Guide, Valuation of Privately-Held Company Equity Securities Issued as Compensation, our board of directors exercised judgment and considered numerous objective and subjective factors to determine the best estimate of the fair value of our common stock, including the most recent third-party valuation report obtained by our board of directors as of the grant date, the value of our tangible and intangible assets, the present value of future cash flows, the market value of similar companies engaged in substantially similar business, particularly those which are at similar stages of development, discounts for lack of common stock liquidity, our development stage and our anticipated operating results.

Our enterprise value was estimated by using market multiples and a discounted cash flow analysis based on plans and estimates used by management to manage the business. We evaluated comparable publicly-traded companies in the airline industry. We used market multiples after considering the risks associated with the strategic shift in our business, the availability of financing, labor relations and an intensely competitive industry. The estimated value was then discounted by a non-marketability factor due to the fact that stockholders of private companies do not have access to trading markets similar to those available to stockholders of public companies which impacts liquidity.

The determination of the fair values of our non-public common stock and stock-based awards are based on estimates and forecasts described above that may not reflect actual market results. These estimates and forecasts require us to make judgments that are highly complex and subjective. Additionally, past valuations relied on reference to other companies for the determination of certain inputs. After completion of this offering, future stock-based grant values will be based on quoted market prices.

Results of Operations

2016 Compared to 2015

We had net income of $200 million in 2016 as compared to net income of $146 million in 2015. In 2016, we had operating income of $317 million as compared to operating income of $233 million in 2015. Our 2016 results reflected the full year impact of our strategic decisions to change our route network and revenue management strategy by reducing our Denver concentration to mitigate seasonality, change in our pricing and fee structure, increase our seat density using lightweight, slim-line seats, execute our fleet plan, transition to third-party specialists for services such as our ground handling, call center and catering, and change our hedging strategy to use out-of-the-money call options.

Our 2016 financial results reflect the execution of our strategy to stimulate demand by passing on a portion of our cost reductions to our customers. As we executed on our strategy, we incurred a number of special charges during 2015 and 2016. Our Lease Modification Program, pursuant to which we amended the operating leases for 10 A319 aircraft, resulted in a special charge of $43 million during 2015 as well as accelerated depreciation of $12 million and $17 million and rent-related expenses of $4 million and $7 million during 2016 and 2015, respectively, due to the significantly shortened lease terms on the 10 A319 aircraft included in this program. We also incurred $40 million and $43 million in non-cash compensation expense in 2016 and 2015, respectively, related to the increased value in and incremental vesting of phantom stock units awarded to the Participating Pilots.

In 2016, we continued our disciplined and aggressive approach to cost control. Our increased seat density in 2016 resulted in lower unit costs. From 2015 to 2016, our Adjusted CASM (excluding fuel) decreased by 7% to 5.43¢ as a result of our strategic initiative implementation. In addition, we had a 16% reduction in fuel cost per gallon.

 

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Operating Revenues

 

     Year ended December 31,        
Operating revenues ($ in millions):        2016             2015         Change  

Passenger

   $ 988     $ 1,203     $ (215     (18%

Non-ticket

     726       401       325       81%  
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

Total operating revenues

   $ 1,714     $ 1,604     $ 110       7%  
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

Operating statistics:

        

Available seat miles (millions)

     18,366       15,229       3,137       21%  

Revenue passenger miles (millions)

     16,015       13,400       2,615       20%  

Average stage length (statute miles)

     1,060       1,002       58       6%  

Load factor

     87.2     88.0     (0.8 ) pts      N/A  

Total revenue per available seat mile—RASM

     9.33 ¢      10.53 ¢      (1.20 )¢      (11%

Total revenue per passenger

   $ 114.72     $ 121.66     $ (6.98     (6%

Passengers (thousands)

     14,937       13,184       1,753       13%  

Total revenue increased by $110 million, or 7%, from 2015 to 2016 due to a $325 million or 81% increase in non-ticket revenue from 2015 to 2016, partially offset by a $215 million or 18% decrease in passenger revenue. Total revenue per available seat mile declined by 11% reflecting competitive pricing actions as a result of capacity growth and lower fuel prices, along with a decrease in our charter revenue due to our decision to largely exit the charter business by the end of 2016.

During 2016, we added a net of five new aircraft to the fleet, opened approximately 80 new routes and introduced routes to Colorado Springs, Columbus, San Antonio and Havana. This change has not only diversified our revenue sources but provided us with the network footprint which we believe will allow us to stimulate demand over time in underserved markets. In March 2017, we announced that we intend to discontinue service to Cuba in May 2017 due to inadequate traffic.

The increase in our non-ticket revenue was due in part to the full-year impact of changes made in 2015 to our pricing and fee structure and product offerings, such as the change to our baggage pricing structure in the first half of 2015 and the introduction of convenience booking fees in the second half of 2015. This increase was offset in part by our decision to largely exit the charter business by the end of 2016. Our capacity, as measured by ASMs, increased by 21% in 2016 as compared to 2015 as a result of changes to our seat density, a strategic shift toward larger aircraft in the fleet and an increase in our average aircraft in service from 56 in 2015 to 61 in 2016.

 

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Operating Expenses

 

     Year Ended December 31,           Cost per ASM     Change  
Operating expenses ($ in millions):          2016                 2015           Change       2016         2015       %  

Aircraft fuel

   $ 343     $ 369     $ (26     (7 %)      1.87 ¢      2.43 ¢      (23 %) 

Salaries, wages and benefits

     287       285       2       1     1.56       1.87       (17 %) 

Station operations

     228       202       26       13     1.24       1.33       (7 %) 

Aircraft rent

     209       171       38       22     1.14       1.12       2

Sales and marketing

     72       79       (7     (9 %)      0.39       0.52       (25 %) 

Maintenance materials and repairs

     48       50       (2     (4 %)      0.26       0.33       (21 %) 

Depreciation and amortization

     75       54       21       39     0.41       0.35       17

Special charges

     —         43       (43     (100 %)      —         0.28       (100 %) 

Other operating expenses

     135       118       17       14     0.74       0.78       (5 %) 
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

     

 

 

   

 

 

   

Total operating expenses

   $ 1,397     $ 1,371     $ 26       2     7.61 ¢      9.01 ¢      (16 %) 
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

     

 

 

   

 

 

   

Operating statistics:

              

Available seat miles (millions)

     18,366       15,229       3,137       21      

Average stage length (statute miles)

     1,060       1,002       58       6      

Departures

     99,369       97,222       2,147       2      

CASM (excluding fuel)

     5.74 ¢      6.58 ¢      (0.84 )¢      (13 %)       

Adjusted CASM (excluding fuel)

     5.43 ¢      5.86 ¢      (0.43 )¢      (7 %)       

Fuel cost per gallon

   $ 1.59     $ 1.90     $ (0.31     (16 %)       

Fuel gallons consumed (thousands)

     215,830       194,846       20,984       11      

Reconciliation of CASM to Adjusted CASM (excluding fuel):

 

     2016      2015  
     (in millions)      Per ASM      (in millions)      Per ASM  

CASM

        7.61 ¢          9.01 ¢ 

Aircraft fuel

   $ (343      (1.87    $ (369      (2.43

CASM (excluding fuel)

        5.74 ¢          6.58 ¢ 
     

 

 

       

 

 

 

Pilot phantom equity(A)

     (40      (0.22      (43      (0.28

Lease Modification Program(B):

           

Special charge

     —          —          (43      (0.28

Depreciation

     (12      (0.07      (17      (0.11

Aircraft rent

     (4      (0.02      (7      (0.05
     

 

 

       

 

 

 

Adjusted CASM (excluding fuel)

        5.43 ¢          5.86 ¢ 
     

 

 

       

 

 

 

 

(A) Represents the impact of the change in value and vesting of phantom stock units pursuant to the Pilot Phantom Equity Plan. See “Executive Compensation—Equity Compensation Plans—Pilot Phantom Equity Plan.”
(B) Represents (i) a special charge of $43 million in 2015, primarily relating to aircraft maintenance obligations and non-recoverable maintenance deposits associated with the early termination of leases for 10 of our A319 aircraft and (ii) accelerated depreciation of $12 million and $17 million in 2016 and 2015, respectively, and aircraft rent of $4 million and $7 million in 2016 and 2015, respectively, as a result of significantly shortened lease terms with respect to such aircraft.

Aircraft Fuel. Aircraft fuel expense decreased by $26 million, or 7%, from 2015 to 2016. On a per-ASM basis, aircraft fuel expense decreased by 23% from 2015 to 2016. The decrease was primarily due to a 16% decline in the fuel cost per gallon offset, in part, by an increase in our fuel consumption. Our fuel gallons consumed increased by 11%, significantly less than our 21% increase in available seat miles, due to the impact of larger aircraft, more fuel-efficient aircraft, higher seat density and lighter weight seats.

 

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Salaries, Wages and Benefits. Salaries, wages and benefits expense increased by $2 million, or 1%, from 2015 to 2016. Salaries, wages and benefits expense per ASM decreased by 17% from 2015 to 2016. We incurred charges of $40 million and $43 million during 2016 and 2015, respectively, for pilot phantom stock units based upon incremental vesting and valuation adjustments. Excluding the impact of pilot phantom equity, salaries, wages and benefits increased by $5 million, or 2%, largely reflecting new hire pilots and flight attendants to support capacity growth.

Station Operations. Station operations expense increased by $26 million, or 13%, from 2015 to 2016, primarily due to increases in passenger volume and aircraft size and changes to our route network to reduce our concentration in Denver, which resulted in an increase in the overall number of ground handlers required across our route network. Station expense per ASM decreased by 7% from 2015 to 2016.

Aircraft Rent. Aircraft rent expense increased by $38 million, or 22%, from 2015 to 2016 primarily as a result of increased lease return costs as more of our fleet approached the end of lease term along with the associated higher unrecoverable maintenance costs and higher rent associated with larger aircraft. In addition, our leased fleet size increased by five aircraft during 2016 to 66 aircraft, comprised of 27 A320s, 22 A319s, 13 A321s and four A320neos in 2016 compared to 33 A319s, 23 A320s, and five A321s in 2015. Aircraft rent expense per ASM increased by 2% from 2015 to 2016 due to our increased utilization.

Sales and Marketing. Sales and marketing expense decreased by $7 million, or 9%, and decreased on a per ASM basis by 25% from 2015 to 2016, primarily due to the full-year impact of new distribution contracts executed during 2015 and a decrease in booking fees as a result of a higher proportion of bookings on our website, our lowest cost distribution channel. These benefits were offset, in part, by credit card fees relating to higher sales. The following table presents our distribution channel mix:

 

     Year Ended
December 31,
       

Distribution Channel

   2016     2015     Change  

Our website, mobile app and other direct channels

     63     58     5  pts 

Third-party channels

     37       42       (5

Maintenance Materials and Repairs. Aircraft maintenance costs decreased by $2 million, or 4%, from 2015 to 2016 and aircraft maintenance expense per ASM decreased by 21% from 2015 to 2016. This decrease was primarily because the timing and mix of maintenance events as well as the timing of new aircraft deliveries, which resulted in lower cost events in the current year period as compared to 2015.

Depreciation and Amortization. Depreciation and amortization expense increased by $21 million, or 39%, from 2015 to 2016. Depreciation and amortization per ASM increased by 17% from 2015 to 2016. This increase was primarily due to increased heavy maintenance activity relating to aircraft being returned to our lessors. Our Lease Modification Program resulted in additional depreciation of $12 million and $17 million in 2016 and 2015, respectively, for our accelerated lease returns.

Special Charges. We incurred special charges of $43 million during 2015 related to our Lease Modification Program as described in “—Fleet Plan.” Special charges were 0.28¢ per ASM in 2015.

Other Operating Expenses. Other operating expenses increased by $17 million, or 14%, from 2015 to 2016 while other operating expenses per ASM decreased by 5% from 2015 to 2016 due to higher aircraft utilization and larger and higher density aircraft.

Other Expense

Other expense decreased from $5 million in 2015 to $1 million in 2016 due to interest earned on our growing cash balance and lower net interest expense in 2016 compared to 2015 due to higher amounts of capitalized interest in 2016.

 

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Income Taxes

In 2016, our effective tax rate was 36.6% as compared to 36.2% in 2015. Our tax rate can vary depending on the amount of income we earn in each state and the state tax rate applicable to such income.

2015 Compared to 2014

Following the 2013 acquisition, we implemented our strategy of Low Fares Done Right, which significantly reduced our cost base in 2015 over 2014 by increasing aircraft utilization, transitioning our fleet to larger aircraft, maximizing seat density, renegotiating our distribution agreements, realigning our network, replacing our reservation system, enhancing our website, boosting employee productivity and contracting with specialists to provide us with select operating and other services.

Our 2015 financial results reflect the execution of our Low Fares Done Right strategy to stimulate demand by passing on a portion of our cost reductions to our customers. As we executed our strategic shift, we incurred a number of special charges during 2014 and 2015. Our Lease Modification Program resulted in a special charge of $43 million during 2015 as well as accelerated depreciation of $17 million and rent-related expenses of $7 million during 2015 due to the significantly shorter lease terms. We incurred $43 million in non-cash compensation expense related to the increased value in and incremental vesting of phantom stock units awarded to our pilots in 2015 as compared to $6 million in 2014.

In 2015, we continued our disciplined approach to cost control. Our increased seat density in 2015 resulted in lower unit costs. From 2014 to 2015, our Adjusted CASM (excluding fuel) decreased by 12% to 5.86¢ as a result of our strategic initiative implementation. In addition, we had a 42% reduction in fuel cost per gallon.

Operating Revenues

 

     Year ended December 31,        
Operating revenues ($ in millions):        2015             2014         Change  

Passenger

   $ 1,203     $ 1,328     $ (125     (9 %) 

Non-ticket

     401       265       136       51
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

Total operating revenues

   $ 1,604     $ 1,593     $ 11       1
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

Operating statistics:

        

Available seat miles (millions)

     15,229       12,332       2,897       23

Revenue passenger miles (millions)

     13,400       11,152       2,248       20

Average stage length (statute miles)

     1,002       897       105       12

Load factor

     88.0     90.4     (2.4 ) pts      N/A  

Total revenue per available seat mile—RASM

     10.53 ¢      12.92 ¢      (2.39 )¢      (18 %) 

Total revenue per passenger

   $ 121.66     $ 130.52     $ (8.86     (7 %) 

Passengers (thousands)

     13,184       12,203       981       8

Total revenue remained relatively consistent from 2014 to 2015, with the $136 million, or 51%, increase in non-ticket revenue substantially offset by a $125 million, or 9%, decrease in passenger revenue. Total revenue per ASM declined by 18% reflecting competitive pricing actions, capacity growth, and lower fuel prices.

During 2015, we changed our route network to reduce our concentration in the Denver area and increase our presence in Philadelphia, Chicago O’Hare, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Washington Dulles. This change has not only diversified our revenue sources but provided us with the network footprint which we believe will allow us to stimulate demand over time in underserved markets.

 

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The increase in our non-ticket revenue was due in part to the changes to our pricing and fee structure and product offerings. We changed our baggage pricing structure in the first half of 2015 and introduced convenience booking fees in the second half of 2015, both of which resulted in increased non-ticket revenue in 2015. In addition, we increased our non-ticket revenue as a result of changes in our baggage, booking and Stretch seat fees. In 2015, we had a full-year of carry-on baggage fee revenue, which we introduced in the second half of 2014. Our capacity, as measured by ASMs, increased by 23% in 2015 as compared to 2014 as a result of changes to our seat density, a strategic shift toward larger aircraft in the fleet and an increase in our average aircraft in service from 54 in 2014 to 56 in 2015. In the second half of 2015, we began flying five 230 seat A321 aircraft. The increase was partially offset by a decrease in charter revenue from 7% of our revenue in 2014 to 5% of our revenue in 2015 due to our decision to significantly reduce our charter business.

Operating Expenses

 

     Year Ended December 31,            Cost per ASM      Change  
Operating expenses ($ in millions):          2015                  2014            Change     2015      2014      %  

Aircraft fuel

   $ 369      $ 538      $ (169      (31 %)      2.43 ¢       4.36 ¢       (44 %) 

Salaries, wages and benefits

     285        258        27        10     1.87        2.09        (11 %) 

Station operations

     202        162        40        25     1.33        1.31        2

Aircraft rent

     171        147        24        16     1.12        1.19        (6 %) 

Sales and marketing

     79        87        (8      (9 %)      0.52        0.71        (27 %) 

Maintenance materials and repairs

     50        39        11        28     0.33        0.32        3

Depreciation and amortization

     54        29        25        86     0.35        0.24        46

Special charges

     43        —          43        N/     0.28        —          N/

Other operating expenses

     118        105        13        12     0.78        0.85        (8 %) 
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

      

 

 

    

 

 

    

Total operating expenses

   $ 1,371      $ 1,365      $ 6        0     9.01 ¢       11.07 ¢       (19 %) 
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

      

 

 

    

 

 

    

Operating statistics:

                   

Available seat miles (millions)

     15,229        12,332        2,897        23        

Average stage length (statute miles)

     1,002        897        105        12        

Departures

     97,222        92,184        5,038        5        

CASM (excluding fuel)

     6.58 ¢       6.71 ¢       (0.13 )¢       (2 %)         

Adjusted CASM (excluding fuel)

     5.86 ¢       6.63 ¢       (0.77 )¢       (12 %)         

Fuel cost per gallon

   $ 1.90      $ 3.26      $ (1.36      (42 %)         

Fuel gallons consumed (thousands)

     194,846        164,845        30,001        18        

 

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(1) Reconciliation of CASM to Adjusted CASM (excluding fuel):

 

     Year Ended December 31,  
     2015      2014  
     (in millions)      Per ASM      (in millions)      Per ASM  

CASM

        9.01 ¢          11.07 ¢ 

Aircraft fuel

   $ (369      (2.43    $ (538      (4.36
     

 

 

       

 

 

 

CASM (excluding fuel)

        6.58 ¢          6.71 ¢ 

Pilot phantom equity(A)

     (43      (0.28      (6      (0.05

Salaries, wages and benefits—severance(B)

     —          —          (3      (0.03

Lease Modification Program(C):

           

Special charge

     (43      (0.28      —          —    

Depreciation

     (17      (0.11      —          —    

Aircraft rent

     (7      (0.05      —          —    
     

 

 

       

 

 

 

Adjusted CASM (excluding fuel)

        5.86 ¢          6.63 ¢ 
     

 

 

       

 

 

 

 

(A) Represents the impact of the change in value and vesting of phantom stock units pursuant to the Pilot Phantom Equity Plan. See “Executive Compensation—Equity Compensation Plans—Pilot Phantom Equity Plan.”
(B) Represents severance costs related to outsourcing of certain functions integral to our operations to third-party vendors as a part of the implementation of our new operating model.
(C) Represents (i) a special charge of $43 million in 2015, primarily relating to aircraft maintenance obligations and non-recoverable maintenance deposits associated with the early termination of leases for 10 of our A319 aircraft and (ii) accelerated depreciation and aircraft rent of $17 million and $7 million, respectively, in 2015, as a result of significantly shortened lease terms with respect to such aircraft.

Aircraft Fuel. Aircraft fuel expense decreased by $169 million, or 31%, from 2014 to 2015. Aircraft fuel expense per ASM decreased by 44% from 2014 to 2015. The decrease was primarily due to a 42% decline in the fuel cost per gallon offset, in part, by an increase in our fuel consumption due to increased capacity. The decrease in our fuel cost per gallon was impacted by $35 million of unrealized losses on collars entered into during 2015 to hedge anticipated fuel purchases in 2016. Our fuel gallons consumed increased by 18%, less than our 23% increase in available seat miles, due to the impact of our new higher seating density, lighter weight seats and the continued introduction of larger aircraft.

Salaries, Wages and Benefits. Salaries, wages and benefits expense increased by $27 million, or 10%, from 2014 to 2015. Salaries, wages and benefits expense per ASM decreased by 11% from 2014 to 2015. We incurred a non-cash charge of $43 million for pilot phantom stock units, an increase of $37 million as compared to 2014, based upon mark-to-market adjustments and incremental vesting. Excluding the impact of pilot equity, salaries, wages and benefits decreased by $10 million, or 4%, largely as a result of using a third-party vendor for ground handling services beginning in first quarter 2015.

Station Operations. Station operations expense increased by $40 million, or 25%, from 2014 to 2015, primarily due to higher capacity and increased utilization and use of the third-party vendors in Denver for customer service and ground handling. Station expense per ASM increased by 2% from 2015 to 2016 as a result of these changes.

Aircraft Rent. Aircraft rent expense increased by $24 million, or 16%, from 2014 to 2015 primarily as a result of increased lease return costs as more of our fleet approached the end of their lease term along with the associated higher unrecoverable maintenance costs and higher rent associated with larger aircraft introduced into the fleet. In addition, our leased fleet size increased by seven aircraft to 61 aircraft, comprised of 33 A319s, 23 A320s, and five A321s. During 2014, our fleet consisted of 54 aircraft, comprised of 34 A319s and 20 A320s. Aircraft rent expense per ASM decreased by 6% from 2014 to 2015 due to our increased utilization.

 

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Sales and Marketing. Sales and marketing expense decreased by $8 million, or 9%, from 2014 to 2015, primarily due to the conversion of our call center to a different vendor, renegotiation of certain distribution agreements and rationalization of our sponsorships and media spending. This was offset, in part, by credit card fees relating to higher sales. Sales and marketing expense per ASM decreased by 27% from 2014 to 2015.

Maintenance Materials and Repairs. Aircraft maintenance costs increased by $11 million, or 28%, from 2014 to 2015 and aircraft maintenance expense per ASM increased by 3% from 2014 to 2015. This was primarily because of our timing and mix of maintenance events resulting in higher cost events in the current year period as compared to the prior year.

Depreciation and Amortization. Depreciation and amortization expense increased by $25 million, or 86%, from 2014 to 2015. Depreciation and amortization per ASM increased by 46% from 2014 to 2015. Our Lease Modification Program resulted in an additional $17 million of accelerated depreciation for our early lease returns. Additionally, there was an increase in heavy maintenance activity and the resulting depreciation relating to our aircraft redeliveries.

Special Charges. We incurred one-time special charges of $43 million related to our Lease Modification Program as described in “—Fleet Plan.” Special charges were 0.28¢ per ASM in 2015.

Other Operating Expenses. Other operating expenses increased by $13 million, or 12%, from 2014 to 2015 while other operating expenses per ASM decreased by 8% from 2014 to 2015. This was primarily due to our cost focus while the capacity in the business increased from 2014 to 2015.

Other (Income) Expense

Other (income) expense remained relatively consistent from 2014 to 2015.

Income Taxes

In 2015, our effective tax rate was 36.2% as compared to 37.5% in 2014. Our tax rate can vary depending on recurring items such as the amount of income we earn in each state and the state tax rate applicable to such income.

Liquidity and Capital Resources

As of December 31, 2016, our principal sources of liquidity were cash and cash equivalents of $612 million. In addition, we had restricted cash of $6 million as of December 31, 2016. Restricted cash includes certificates of deposit that secure letters of credit issued for particular airport authorities as required in certain lease agreements. Furthermore, as of December 31, 2016, we also had outstanding $39 million of the amount available under our $50 million pre-purchased miles facility, $143 million drawn under our $150 million pre-delivery payments facility and $59 million in secured indebtedness incurred in connection with the financing of six aircraft. We also hold a certificate of deposit to secure workers’ compensation claim reserves. Primary uses of liquidity are for working capital needs, capital expenditures, aircraft pre-delivery payments, maintenance reserve deposits, and debt repayments. As of December 31, 2016, we had $141 million of short-term debt and $96 million of long-term debt.

Our single largest capital commitment relates to the acquisition of aircraft. As of December 31, 2016, we operated 60 of our 66 aircraft under operating leases. Pre-delivery payments relating to future deliveries under our agreement with Airbus are required at various times prior to each aircraft’s delivery date. As of December 31, 2016, we had $197 million of pre-delivery payments held by Airbus, $143 million of which was outstanding under our pre-delivery payments facility. As of December 31, 2016, we had an obligation to acquire 82 aircraft, including 76 A320neo family aircraft and six A321ceo aircraft by 2021, the first 43 of which we

 

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intend to finance with operating leases, including 11 which are currently subject to committed operating leases and 32 which are subject to non-binding letters of intent. We intend to evaluate financing options for the remaining 39 aircraft.

In addition, while we recently have been able to arrange aircraft sale-leaseback financing that does not require that we maintain a maintenance reserve account, we are required by some of our aircraft lessors, and could in the future be required to, fund reserves in cash in advance for scheduled maintenance to act as collateral for the benefit of lessors. Qualifying payments that are expected to be recovered from lessors are recorded as aircraft maintenance deposits in our consolidated balance sheets. A portion of our cash is, therefore, unavailable until after we have completed the scheduled maintenance in accordance with the terms of the operating leases. Based on the age of our fleet and our growth strategy, we expect these maintenance deposits to decrease as we enter into new operating leases that do not require reserves. In 2016 and 2015, we made $32 million and $23 million in net maintenance deposit payments to our lessors. As of December 31, 2016, we had $60 million in recoverable aircraft maintenance deposits on our consolidated balance sheets, of which $8 million is included in accounts receivable because the eligible maintenance had been performed.

As of December 31, 2016, we were compliant with our credit card processing agreements and not subject to any credit card holdbacks. Although as of December 31, 2016 we were not subject to any credit card holdbacks, if we fail to maintain certain liquidity and other financial metrics, our credit card processors have the right to hold back credit card reimbursements to cover our obligations to them.

We expect to meet our obligations as they become due through available cash, internally generated funds from our operating cash flows, supplemented by financing activities as necessary and as they may become available to us. However, we cannot predict what the effect on our business and financial position might be from a change in the competitive environment in which we operate or from events beyond our control, such as volatile fuel prices, economic conditions, weather-related disruptions, the impact of airline bankruptcies, restructurings or consolidations, U.S. military actions or acts of terrorism. We believe the working capital available to us will be sufficient to meet our cash requirements for at least the next 12 months.

Cash Flows

The following table presents information regarding our cash flows in 2016, 2015 and 2014:

 

     Year Ended December 31,  
     2016     2015     2014  
     (in millions)  

Net cash provided by operating activities

   $ 238     $ 208     $ 184  

Net cash used in investing activities

     (39     (143     (57

Net cash (used in) provided by financing activities

     (6     91       9  
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net increase in cash and cash equivalents

     193       156       136  

Cash and cash equivalents at beginning of period

     419       263       127  
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Cash and cash equivalents at end of period

   $ 612     $ 419     $ 263  
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net Cash Flow Provided By Operating Activities

During 2016, cash flow provided by operating activities of $238 million reflects our growth, execution of our strategic initiatives and our improved credit position. We had net income of $200 million adjusted for the following significant non-cash items: depreciation and amortization of $75 million, stock-based compensation expense of $42 million, and deferred taxes of $(23) million. We had $13 million of payments primarily related to premiums paid for new call options for our fuel hedging program during 2016. We had net outflows of $43 million within other net operating assets and liabilities largely driven by heavy maintenance events during 2016 partly offset by a $39 million increase in our air traffic liability as a result of our growth.

 

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During 2015, net cash flow provided by operating activities was $208 million driven by our growth, execution of our strategic initiatives and our improved credit position. We had net income of $146 million adjusted for the following non-cash items: depreciation and amortization of $54 million, stock-based compensation expense of $44 million, special charge related to our Lease Modification Program of $43 million and deferred taxes of $14 million. We had $43 million net outflows related to premiums paid for new call options and collateral returned for collars for our fuel hedging program during 2015. Due to our improved liquidity, our credit card processor reduced our holdback from 50% of air traffic liability to zero. As a result, the holdback decreased by $59 million during 2015. We had net outflows of $109 million within other net operating assets and liabilities largely driven by an increase in our costs related to heavy maintenance of $55 million, an increase in net cash paid for maintenance deposits of $23 million and a decrease in air traffic liability of $11 million.

During 2014, net cash flow provided by operating activities was $184 million. We had net income of $140 million adjusted for the following non-cash items: depreciation and amortization of $29 million, unrealized loss on fuel derivative instruments of $35 million and deferred income taxes of $22 million. Due to our improved credit position, our credit card processor reduced our holdback from 95% of air traffic liability to 50% of our air traffic liability. As a result, the holdback decreased by $55 million during 2014. We used $25 million in cash related to our hedging program. We had net outflows of $78 million within other net operating assets and liabilities largely driven by an increase in other long-term assets of $60 million, primarily driven by deferred heavy maintenance costs, a decrease in long-term liabilities of $24 million primarily due to a change in long-term frequent flyer liability, an increase in net cash paid for maintenance deposits of $15 million and a decrease in restricted cash of $10 million due to station letters of credit, which was partially offset by a decrease in accounts receivable of $29 million due to maintenance deposit refunds.

Net Cash Flows Used In Investing Activities

During 2016, net cash flow used in investing activities totaled $39 million. We invested $26 million in fixed assets, paid net $9 million in security deposits for aircraft and engine commitments, and made net pre-delivery payments of $4 million for future aircraft deliveries.

During 2015, net cash flow used in investing activities was $143 million. We invested $39 million in fixed assets for capitalized heavy maintenance and equipment upgrades, primarily related to increasing the seating density on our aircraft. We also made net pre-delivery payments of $107 million for future aircraft deliveries and $5 million net payments for security deposits for aircraft and engine commitments. We received proceeds of $8 million from the sale of fixed assets.

During 2014, net cash flow used in investing activities was $57 million. We made net pre-delivery payments of $54 million for future aircraft deliveries and invested $15 million in fixed assets. We received proceeds of $12 million from the sale of fixed assets.

Net Cash Flows (Used In) Provided By Financing Activities

During 2016, net cash flow used in financing activities was $6 million. We received $113 million in proceeds from debt primarily related to the pre-delivery payment facility to finance the pre-delivery payments for our aircraft orders. We made $97 million of principal repayments on long-term debt during the year. We also received $84 million of net proceeds from sale-leaseback transactions relating to A320-family aircraft and spare engines delivered during 2016. These net inflows were offset by a distribution of $101 million to common stockholders and others with participating rights with respect to the dividend declared in February 2016 and other items.

During 2015, net cash flow provided by financing activities was $91 million. We received $130 million in proceeds from debt, primarily the pre-delivery payment facility, to finance the pre-delivery payments for our

 

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aircraft orders. We made $67 million of principal repayments on long-term debt during the year. We received $28 million of net proceeds from sale-leaseback transactions on five A320-family aircraft, a spare engine, and a simulator delivered during 2015.

During 2014, net cash flow provided by financing activities was $9 million. We received $39 million in proceeds from debt, primarily the pre-delivery payment facility, to finance the pre-delivery payments for our aircraft orders. We made $11 million of principal repayments on long-term aircraft debt and $18 million of principal payments to retire a short-term working capital note payable from our parent during the year.

Commitments and Contractual Obligations

Our contractual purchase commitments consist of aircraft and engine acquisitions. As of December 31, 2016, our firm aircraft and engine orders consisted of the following:

 

     A319neo      A320neo      A321      Total
Aircraft
     Engines  

2017

     —          11        6        17        3  

2018

     —          16        —          16        2  

2019

     —          18        —          18        2  

2020

     5        13        —          18        2  

2021

     13        —          —          13        2  

Thereafter

     —          —          —          —          1  
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total

     18        58        6        82        12  
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

We have contractual obligations comprised of aircraft and engine purchases, payment of debt and lease arrangements. The following table includes our contractual obligations as of December 31, 2016 for the periods in which payments are due:

 

     Total      Less than
1 Year
     1 to 3 Years      3 to 5 Years      More than
5 Years
 
     (in millions)  

Long-term debt(1)

   $ 241      $ 141      $ 49      $ 51      $ —    

Interest commitments(2)

     12        6        5        1        —    

Operating lease obligations

     2,099        263        496        419        921  

Flight equipment purchase obligations

     4,010        799        1,684        1,512        15  

Maintenance deposit obligations(3)

     44        7        9        8        20  
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total

   $ 6,406      $ 1,216      $ 2,243      $ 1,991      $ 956  
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

(1) Includes principal only associated with our secured pre-delivery credit facility due through 2019, our floating and fixed rate equipment notes due through 2020 and 2021 and affinity card unsecured debt due through 2020. See “Notes to Financial Statements—8 Debt.”
(2) Represents interest on long-term debt.
(3) Represents fixed maintenance reserve payments for aircraft and spare engines, including estimated amounts for contractual price escalations.

Off-Balance Sheet Arrangements

We have significant obligations for aircraft that are classified as operating leases and therefore are not reflected in our consolidated balance sheets. As of December 31, 2016, 60 of our 66 aircraft in our fleet were subject to operating leases. These leases expire between 2017 and 2028. Leases for eight of our aircraft can generally be renewed at rates based on fair market value at the end of the lease term for three years and five of

 

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our aircraft can be renewed for four years. Aircraft rent expense related to operating leases was $209 million and $171 million in 2016 and 2015, respectively, including supplemental rent expense of $36 million and $27 million in 2016 and 2015, respectively, for maintenance-related reserves as required by our lessors that were deemed recoverable.

We have various leases with respect to real property as well as various agreements among airlines relating to fuel consortia or fuel farms at airports. Under some of these contracts, we are party to joint and several liability regarding damages. Under others, where we are a member of an LLC or other entity that contracts directly with the airport operator, liabilities are borne through the fuel consortia structure.

Our aircraft, services, equipment lease and sale and financing agreements typically contain provisions requiring us, as the lessee, obligor or recipient of services, to indemnify the other parties to those agreements, including certain of those parties’ related persons, against virtually any liabilities that might arise from the use or operation of the aircraft or such other equipment. We believe that our insurance would cover most of our exposure to liabilities and related indemnities associated with the commercial real estate leases and aircraft, services, equipment lease and sale and financing agreements described above.

Certain of our aircraft and other financing transactions include provisions that require us to make payments to preserve an expected economic return to the lenders if that economic return is diminished due to certain changes in law or regulations. In certain of these financing transactions and other agreements, we also bear the risk of certain changes in tax laws that would subject payments to non-U.S. entities to withholding taxes.

Certain of these indemnities survive the length of the related financing or lease. We cannot reasonably estimate our potential future payments under the indemnities and related provisions described above because we cannot predict when and under what circumstances these provisions may be triggered and the amount that would be payable if the provisions were triggered because the amounts would be based on facts and circumstances existing at such time.

We have also made certain guarantees and indemnities to other unrelated parties that are not reflected on our consolidated balance sheets which we believe will not have a significant impact on our results of operations, financial condition or cash flows.

We have no other off-balance sheet arrangements.

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosure About Market Risk

We are subject to market risks in the ordinary course of our business. These risks include commodity price risk, specifically with respect to aircraft fuel, as well as interest and foreign exchange rate risk. The adverse effects of changes in these markets could pose a potential loss as discussed below. The sensitivity analysis provided does not consider the effects that such adverse changes may have on overall economic activity, nor does it consider additional actions we may take to mitigate our exposure to such changes. Actual results may differ.

Aircraft Fuel. Our results of operations can vary materially, due to changes in the price and availability of aircraft fuel and are also impacted by the number of aircraft in use and the number of flights we operate. Aircraft fuel expense for the years ended December 31, 2016 and 2015 represented approximately 25% and 27% of our operating expenses. Unexpected pricing of aircraft fuel or a shortage or disruption in the supply could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. Our strategy has been to purchase out-of-the-money call options which are intended to provide protection against a large upward movement in oil prices, while also allowing us to participate in any material fall in oil prices. Based on December 2016 aircraft fuel market prices and our projected 2017 fuel consumption, a 10% increase in the average price per gallon would increase our annual aircraft fuel expense, net of our hedge portfolio, by approximately $39 million. To manage economic risks associated with the fluctuations of aircraft fuel prices, we periodically enter into call options, collar or fixed forward price contracts for jet fuel or highly correlated commodities. As of December 31, 2016, we had out-of-the-money call options covering approximately 73% of

 

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our projected aircraft fuel requirements for 2017 and approximately 20% of our projected aircraft fuel requirements for the month of January 2018, with all of our then existing fuel hedge contracts expected to be exercised or expire by the end of 2018. The fair value of our fuel derivative contracts as of December 31, 2016 and 2015 was a net asset of $15 million and $4 million, respectively. We had no collateral posted against fuel-related derivatives as of December 31, 2016 and 2015.

We measure our fuel derivative instruments at fair value, which is determined using standard option valuation models that use observable market inputs including contractual terms, market prices, yield curves, fuel price curves and measures of volatility. Changes in the related commodity derivative instrument cash flows may change by more or less than the fair value based on further fluctuations in futures prices. Outstanding financial derivative instruments expose us to credit loss in the event of non-performance by the counterparties to the agreements. As of December 31, 2016, we believe the credit exposure related to these call options was minimal and do not expect the counterparties to fail to meet their obligations.

Interest Rates. We are subject to market risk associated with changing interest rates, due to LIBOR-based interest rates on an applicable portion of our floating rate equipment notes and our PDP credit facility.

Foreign Exchange. We have de minimis foreign currency risks related to our station operating expenses denominated in currencies other than the U.S. dollar, primarily the Mexican peso, Jamaican dollar and Dominican Republic peso. Our revenue is U.S. dollar denominated.

Recent Accounting Pronouncements

In May 2014, the Financial Accounting Standards Board, or the FASB, issued ASU 2014-09, Revenue from Contracts with Customers, or ASU 2014-09. The objective of ASU 2014-09 is to establish a single comprehensive model for entities to use in accounting for revenue arising from contracts with customers that will supersede most of the existing revenue recognition guidance, including industry-specific guidance. The core principle of ASU 2014-09 is that an entity recognizes revenue to depict the transfer of promised goods or services to customers in an amount that reflects the consideration to which the entity expects to be entitled in exchange for those goods or services. ASU 2014-09 applies to all contracts with customers except for those within the scope of other topics in the FASB Accounting Standard Codification. The new guidance for the Company is effective for annual reporting periods, and interim reporting periods within those years, beginning after December 15, 2017. Early adoption is permitted, but not before the first quarter of 2017. Entities have the option of using either a full retrospective or modified approach to adopt ASU 2014-09. We are currently evaluating the new guidance and have neither determined the method we will adopt this standard under, nor the full impact this standard may have on the financial statements. We expect this pronouncement to impact the accounting for the frequent flyer program as the standard no longer allows the use of the incremental cost method when recording revenue related to the frequent flyer program. As a result, we expect our deferred frequent flyer liability balance to increase. In addition, we expect changes related to the timing of recognition of certain non-ticket related fees such as change and cancellation fees that would further increase our revenue deferrals. Furthermore, as certain non-ticket related fees cannot be separated from the fare as a separate performance obligation under the new guidance, we expect that many of these fees will be reclassified out of non-ticket revenue into passenger revenue within the statement of operations.

In April 2015, the FASB issued ASU No. 2015-03, Interest-Imputation of Interest, or ASU 2015-03. The standard requires debt issuance costs to be presented on the balance sheet as a direct deduction from the related debt liability rather than as a separate asset. We have applied the new guidance in the current period and retrospectively to all prior periods presented as of December 31, 2016.

In November 2015, the FASB issued ASU 2015-17, Balance Sheet Classification of Deferred Taxes, or ASU 2015-17. The standard requires that deferred tax liabilities and assets be classified as noncurrent on the balance sheet. We have applied the new guidance in the current period and retrospectively to all prior periods presented as of December 31, 2016.

 

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In February 2016, the FASB issued ASU 2016-02, Leases, or ASU 2016-02. The new standard will require all leases with terms greater than twelve months to be recognized on the balance sheet. The ASU is effective for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2018 and interim reporting periods within those fiscal years. Although we are currently evaluating the guidance, we expect adoption to have a significant impact on the consolidated balance sheet due to the recognition of lease liabilities, along with corresponding right-to-use assets, for aircraft and certain non-aircraft leases currently accounted for as operating leases.

In March 2016, the FASB issued ASU 2016-05, Effect of Derivative Contract Novations on Existing Hedge Accounting Relationships, or ASU 2016-05. This standard clarifies that a change in the counterparty to a derivative instrument that has been designated as the hedging instrument under Topic 815 does not, in and of itself, require de-designation of that hedging relationship provided that all other hedge accounting criteria continue to be met. The new guidance is effective for financial statements issued for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2016 and interim reporting periods within those fiscal years. Early adoption of this standard is permitted. We have made the decision to early adopt this standard that has no financial statement impact during 2016, and we have not novated any options to new counterparties.

In March 2016, the FASB issued ASU No. 2016-09, Improvements to Employee Share-Based Payment Accounting, or ASU 2016-09. This standard aims to simplify several aspects of the accounting for and presentation of employee share-based payment transactions. The new guidance is effective for annual periods beginning after December 15, 2016 and interim reporting periods within those annual periods. Although we are currently evaluating the guidance, we do not expect adoption to have a significant impact on our consolidated financial statements.

In June 2016, the FASB issued ASU No. 2016-13, Measurement of Credit Losses on Financial Instruments, or ASU 2016-13. This standard replaces the incurred loss impairment methodology in current GAAP with an “expected loss” model which requires consideration of a broader range of reasonable and supportable information to inform credit loss estimates. The new guidance is effective for annual periods beginning after December 15, 2019 and interim reporting periods within those fiscal years. We are evaluating this guidance but do not expect it to have a significant impact on the financial statements.

In August 2016, the FASB issued ASU 2016-15, Classification of Certain Cash Receipts and Cash Payments, or ASU 2016-15. This standard addresses eight specific cash flow issues with the objective of reducing the existing diversity in practice. The amendments are effective for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2017, and interim reporting periods within those fiscal years. We are currently evaluating this guidance but do not expect it to have a significant impact on the financial statements.

In November 2016, the FASB issued ASU 2016-18, Restricted Cash, or ASU 2016-18. This standard addresses diversity in practice when presenting restricted cash within the statement of cash flows. The amendments are effective for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2017 and interim reporting periods within those fiscal years. We are currently evaluating this guidance but do not expect it to have a significant impact on the financial statements assuming no material changes to the relatively insignificant restricted cash balance.

 

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INDUSTRY BACKGROUND

There are three main categories of passenger airlines that offer scheduled airline service in the markets in which we compete: the legacy network airlines, low-cost carriers and the ultra low-cost carriers. While each major airline based in the United States competes broadly with each other for airline passengers traveling on the routes they serve, particularly customers traveling in economy or similar classes of service, these categories identify the operating strategy of these airlines. As of December 31, 2016, there were 10 scheduled airlines of significant size operating across these three categories, each with a market share as provided in the table below.

 


Carrier

   Market Share for the
year ended December 31,  2016(1)
 

Legacy Network Carriers

  

Alaska Airlines(2)

       7.1%  

American Airlines

     22.2%  

Delta Air Lines

     19.1%  

United Airlines

     17.5%  

Hawaiian Airlines

       2.3%  

Low-Cost Carriers

  

JetBlue Airways

       6.7%  

Southwest Airlines

     18.2%  

Ultra Low-Cost Carriers

  

Frontier Airlines

     2.3%  

Allegiant Travel Company

       1.5%  

Spirit Airlines

       3.1%  

 

(1) Only includes the identified carriers listed above and based on total domestic revenue passenger miles for the year ended December 31, 2016 according to public filings of each respective carrier.
(2) Pro forma for acquisition of Virgin America.

As a result of a series of merger transactions, there are presently three very large legacy network carriers in the United States, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines. These airlines offer scheduled flights to most large cities within the United States and abroad (directly or through membership in one of the global airline alliances: oneworld, SkyTeam or Star Alliance) and also serve numerous smaller cities. These airlines operate predominantly through a “hub-and-spoke” network route system. This system concentrates most of an airline’s operations in a limited number of hub cities, serving other destinations in the system by providing one-stop or connecting service through hub airports to end destinations on the spokes. Such an arrangement permits travelers to fly from a given point of origin to more destinations without switching airlines. While hub-and-spoke systems result in low marginal costs for each additional passenger, they also result in high fixed costs. The unit costs incurred by legacy network carriers to provide the gates, airport ground operations and maintenance facilities needed to support a hub-and-spoke operation are generally higher than those of the point-to-point network typically operated by low-cost carriers and ultra low-cost carriers. Aircraft schedules at legacy network carriers also tend to be inefficient to meet the requirements of connecting banks of flights in hubs, resulting in lower aircraft utilization and crew productivity. Serving a large number of markets of different sizes requires the legacy carriers to have multiple fleets with multiple aircraft types along with the related complexities and additional costs for crew scheduling, crew training and maintenance. As a result, legacy network carriers typically have higher cost structures than other airlines due to, among other things, higher labor costs, flight crew and aircraft scheduling inefficiencies, concentration of operations in higher cost airports, and the offering of multiple classes of services, including multiple premium classes of service.

The legacy network carriers supplement their networks by contracting with regional airlines, such as Air Wisconsin Airlines, Envoy Air (formerly American Eagle), ExpressJet Airlines, Horizon Air, Mesa Airlines, Republic Airline, SkyWest Airlines and Trans States Airlines. Several regional airlines are wholly-owned

 

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subsidiaries of legacy network carriers. Regional airlines generally enter into capacity purchase agreements with one or more major airlines under which the regional airline agrees to use its smaller aircraft to carry passengers booked and ticketed by the major airline between a city served by a major airline and a smaller outlying location. In exchange for such services, the regional airline’s capacity purchase agreement with the legacy network carrier typically provides an agreed upon margin on the regional airline’s fixed operating costs and passes through variable costs, such as fuel, to the major airline scheduling and selling the seats on the flight. Less commonly, regional airlines receive a pro rata portion of the total fare generated in a given market. While the use of a regional carrier provides a legacy network carrier with the ability to outsource labor at lower rates and access smaller aircraft on less traveled routes, such operations tend to operate with higher unit costs than the mainline operations of the legacy network airlines.

In addition to American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines, while smaller, have a similar product offering to the legacy network carriers and primarily serve particular regions of the United States with a service offering that includes network hubs and multiple classes of service. On December 14, 2016, Alaska Airlines acquired Virgin America making it the fifth largest airline in the United States in terms of total domestic revenue passenger miles.

Low-cost carriers largely developed in the wake of deregulation of the U.S. airline industry in 1978, which permitted competition on many routes for the first time and thereby introduced fare competition on those routes. Low-cost carriers generally have lower cost structures than legacy network carriers, which permits them to offer flights to and from many of the same markets as the legacy network carriers, but at lower prices. As initially conceived, low-cost carriers flew direct, point-to-point flights, a system that tends to improve aircraft and crew scheduling efficiency, but results in somewhat less convenient flight schedules and services to fewer markets compared to the hub-and-spoke system used by legacy network carriers. In addition, low-cost carriers historically served major markets through secondary, lower cost airports in the same region as those major population markets, provided only a single class of service, thereby avoiding the significant incremental cost of offering premium-class services, and operated fleets with only one or at most two aircraft families in order to maximize the utilization of flight crews across the fleet, improve aircraft scheduling flexibility and minimize aircraft maintenance costs. As the low-cost carrier model has developed in the United States, carriers in this category have begun to exhibit some of the characteristics of the legacy network airlines such as, depending on the carrier, a premium class of service, schedules that accommodate connecting traffic and service to high-cost airports in major markets, including slot-controlled airports. The largest airlines based in the United States that define themselves as low-cost carriers are Southwest Airlines, JetBlue Airways and Virgin America (acquired by Alaska Airlines in December 2016).

The emerging category of airlines operating in the United States are carriers that have developed a business model as an ultra low-cost carrier, or ULCC. This operating strategy was pioneered by Ryanair in Europe and was built on the model initially adopted by the low-cost carriers, but combined with a focus on increased aircraft utilization, increased seat density and the unbundling of revenue sources aside from ticket prices with multiple products and services offered for additional cost. ULCCs have significantly lower unit costs than the legacy network carriers or the low-cost carriers. In addition, ULCCs are capable of driving significant increases in passenger volumes as a result of their low fares.

According to the DOT, the 25-year (1991 to 2016) compound annual growth rate for domestic passenger traffic in the United States was approximately 2.1%. Based on this information, we believe that over the next 25 years, low fare offerings, such as those offered by ULCCs, could stimulate growth for over 850 additional narrow body aircraft covering over 2,000 domestic and international routes we can serve with A320 family aircraft. As an additional indication of potential domestic passenger growth in North America, Boeing’s “2016 Current Market Outlook” estimated that 2,620 new narrow body aircraft (net of retirements) would be added in North America by 2035, resulting in a total of 6,630 narrow body aircraft in operation.

Similarly, in Europe where the ULCC operating strategy is more mature, ULCCs have driven substantial increases in passenger volumes. Over the 15-year period from 2000 to 2014, according to World Bank and public

 

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filings of other carriers, total passenger volumes in Europe had a compound annual growth rate of approximately 4%, of which approximately 80% was attributable to ULCC growth and stimulation. According to World Bank and other public filings, over the same 15-year period, ULCCs in Europe grew their market share from approximately 5% of total domestic passengers in 2000 to approximately 38% of total domestic passengers in 2014, whereas in the United States, ULCCs only had a market share of approximately 3% of total domestic passengers in 2014. In addition, according to each airline’s most recent fiscal year public filings, European ULCCs, including Ryanair, Easyjet and Wizz Air, had 696 aircraft in operation in 2016 and have had an 9.3% compound annual growth rate since 2007. By comparison, U.S. ULCCs had 245 aircraft in 2016 and have had a higher compound growth rate of 15.3% since 2007.

The airlines executing ULCC operating strategies in the United States are Allegiant Travel Company and Spirit Airlines, in addition to ourselves. For the year ended December 31, 2016, Allegiant Travel Company had revenue of $1.4 billion and Spirit Airlines had revenue of $2.3 billion, compared to our revenue of $1.7 billion. Allegiant Travel Company, Spirit Airlines and we ended the year with fleets of 84, 95 and 66 aircraft, respectively. Of the three U.S.-based ULCCs, Spirit Airlines is the most similar operationally to our airline—for example, through the operation of a single type of aircraft in a high-utilization, point-to-point model. Allegiant Travel Company focuses on leisure travel, with less frequent service primarily linking small markets to vacation destinations, such as Las Vegas and Orlando, often with a package including lodging and other services.

 

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BUSINESS

Overview

Frontier Airlines is an ultra low-cost carrier whose business strategy is focused on Low Fares Done Right®. We offer flights throughout the United States and to select international destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean. Our unique and sustainable strategy is underpinned by our low cost structure and superior ULCC brand. As of December 31, 2016, we operated a fleet of 66 narrow-body Airbus A320 family aircraft, which we expect to grow to 121, including 80 A320neo (New Engine Option) family aircraft, by the end of 2021. In the year ended December 31, 2016, we served approximately 14.9 million passengers across a network of 59 airports.

In December 2013, we were acquired by an investment fund managed by Indigo Partners LLC, or Indigo, an experienced and successful global investor in ultra low-cost carriers, or ULCCs. Following the acquisition, Indigo reshaped our management team to include experienced veterans of the airline industry. Working with Indigo, our management team developed and implemented our unique Low Fares Done Right strategy, which significantly reduced our unit costs, introduced low fares, provided the choice of optional services, enhanced our operational performance and improved the customer experience. Through the implementation of our new operating model, we have positioned our brand as a premier ULCC in the United States and have seen a dramatic improvement to our profitability.

The implementation of Low Fares Done Right has significantly reduced our cost base over the past three years by increasing aircraft utilization, transitioning to larger aircraft, maximizing seat density, renegotiating our distribution agreements, realigning our network, replacing our reservation system, enhancing our website, boosting employee productivity and contracting with specialists to provide us with select operating and other services. As a result of these and other initiatives, we have reduced our CASM (excluding fuel) from 7.89¢ for the year ended December 31, 2013 to 5.74¢ in the year ended December 31, 2016, and our Adjusted CASM (excluding fuel) from 7.89¢ for the year ended December 31, 2013 to 5.43¢ in the year ended December 31, 2016, an improvement of 27% and 31%, respectively. In 2016, this was one of the U.S. industry’s lowest unit operating costs. We believe that we are well positioned to maintain our relatively low unit operating costs through on-going strategic initiatives, including continuing our cost optimization efforts and further realizing economies of scale.

In addition to low unit costs, a key component of our Low Fares Done Right success was establishing Frontier as a premier ULCC in the United States by attracting customers with low fares and garnering repeat business by delivering a high-quality, family-friendly customer experience with a more upscale look and feel than historically experienced on ULCCs globally.

We currently offer flexible optional services through both unbundled and bundled service options. In 2015, we introduced The Works, a hassle-free option that includes a guaranteed seat assignment, carry-on and checked baggage, ticket refundability and changes, and priority boarding, all at an attractive low price and available only on our website. In 2016, we expanded our bundled product offering with The Perks, which enables customers to book the same amenities included in The Works, excluding refundability and ticket changes, through third parties. We operate a customer-friendly digital platform that includes our website and mobile app, which makes booking and travel easy and more enjoyable for our customers. Our brand and product are also family-friendly, featuring popular animals on our aircraft tails, novelty cards for children and amenity packages tailored for families. We reward our repeat customers through our Early Returns frequent flyer program and also offer our Discount Den membership program, which provides subscribers with exclusive access to some of our lowest fares.

Low Fares Done Right differentiates Frontier from the historical ULCC model by providing a dependable and higher quality customer service experience than traditionally offered by such carriers. We pioneered this

 

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concept in the United States through our disciplined approach to operational reliability, modern fleet and comfortable cabin seating, including extra seat padding, and our Stretch seating option. Our focus on reliability and service allowed us to achieve the lowest ratio of cancelled flights and the highest percentage of on-time arrivals among the U.S. ULCCs according to the Department of Transportation, or DOT, for the year ended December 31, 2016. This high level of operational performance has led to a reduction in the rate of our customers’ complaints for the year ended December 31, 2016 as compared to 2015, according to DOT data. Our commitment to operational reliability is also reflected in our approach to recruiting, workforce training and employee engagement, which we believe enables us to offer a standardized and predictable travel experience. We believe the association of our brand with a high level of operational performance differentiates us from the other U.S. ULCCs and enables us to generate greater customer loyalty. In addition, as a result of our Low Fares Done Right strategy of distinguishing our service offering from other airlines, including other ULCC airlines, we were able to generate a unit revenue premium over Spirit Airlines, the largest ULCC in the United States, during the year ended December 31, 2016.

The low unit cost, high quality of service and dependability that make Low Fares Done Right successful have enabled us to implement a network strategy that primarily targets high fare or underserved markets, where our low fares stimulate new traffic flows. In addition, we also focus on providing air transportation from medium-sized markets (population between one and 4.7 million) to a wide range of VFR (visiting friends and relatives) and leisure destinations. As of December 2016, we served 28 of the 43 medium-sized markets in the United States, including Denver. Through this network strategy, we have built our current network around flights to and from airports that complement our Denver franchise, including Orlando, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Atlanta, Trenton, Chicago and Phoenix. This current network reflects significant diversification and a proactive effort to reduce our concentration in Denver. We reduced the number of our flights with either an origin or destination in Denver from over 90% as of December 2013 to approximately 45% as of December 2016. The diversification of our network since the beginning of 2014 has enabled us to reduce the impact of seasonality, increase revenue, increase utilization, lower unit costs and enhance profitability in each of 2014, 2015 and 2016.

We believe that our business model, including our focus on medium-sized markets and the use of low fares to stimulate demand, positions us to benefit from significant growth opportunities in the United States. According to the DOT, there were over 500 million domestic passengers in the United States during the 12 months ended September 30, 2016. Of these passengers, over 300 million paid a fare that was at least 30% above our cost basis per passenger during the same period for the stage length associated with such fares. As a result, we believe that there are a significant number of markets in which we could operate profitably with our low fares, and we believe our entry into such markets could drive substantial passenger volume growth in those markets. For example, according to the DOT, in markets we entered in March and April 2015, industry passenger volumes increased by an average of approximately 41% in the six months ended September 30, 2016 as compared to the same period in 2014.

According to the DOT, the 25-year (1991 to 2016) compound annual growth rate for domestic passenger traffic in the United States was approximately 2.1%. Based on this information, we believe that over the next 25 years, low fare offerings, such as those offered by ULCCs, could stimulate growth for over 850 additional narrow body aircraft covering over 2,000 domestic and international routes we can serve with A320 family aircraft. Of these routes, we believe there is an opportunity for over 650 new routes from medium-sized markets in the United States. As an additional indication of potential domestic passenger growth in North America, Boeing’s “2016 Current Market Outlook” estimated that 2,620 new narrow body aircraft (net of retirements) would be added in North America by 2035, resulting in a total of 6,630 narrow body aircraft in operation.

Similarly, in Europe where the ULCC operating strategy is more mature, ULCCs have driven substantial increases in passenger volumes. Over the 15-year period from 2000 to 2014, according to World Bank and public filings of other carriers, total passenger volumes in Europe had a compound annual growth rate of approximately 4%, of which approximately 80% was attributable to ULCC growth and stimulation. According to World Bank

 

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and other public filings, over the same 15-year period, ULCCs in Europe grew their market share from approximately 5% of total domestic passengers in 2000 to approximately 38% of total domestic passengers in 2014, whereas in the United States, ULCCs only had a market share of approximately 3% of total domestic passengers in 2014.

Our History

We were incorporated in September 2013 as a newly-formed corporation initially wholly-owned by an investment fund managed by Indigo to facilitate the acquisition of Frontier and its holding company from Republic. That acquisition was completed on December 3, 2013. Following the acquisition, Indigo reshaped our management team to include experienced veterans of the airline industry. Working with Indigo, our management team developed and implemented our unique strategy, Low Fares Done Right.

Indigo is a private equity fund focused on investing in air transportation companies, with past or current investments in six other ULCC airlines, including Spirit Airlines based in the United States, Tiger Airways based in Singapore and Australia, Volaris based in Mexico, Wizz Air based in Central and Eastern Europe, Avianova which operated in Russia from 2009 to 2011, and Mandala Airlines which operated in Indonesia until 2011. In February 2017, Indigo announced an investment in JetSMART, a start-up airline that plans to provide air transportation services in South America.

Our Business Model

Our business model is based on our unique Low Fares Done Right strategy. While our strategy is similar to the business models utilized by other ULCCs, including with respect to low cost structure, low fares and flexible optional services, we believe Low Fares Done Right differentiates us from other U.S. ULCCs as a result of our focus on delivering a higher quality, family-friendly customer experience with a more upscale look and feel than traditionally than historically experienced on ULCCs globally. From the perspective of our customers, our business model provides a product offering that combines low base fares with dependable customer service, a customer-friendly digital platform, a modern fleet, comfortable cabin seating, flexible optional services and operational reliability.

Our Competitive Strengths

Our competitive strengths include:

Our Low-Cost Structure. Our low-cost structure has allowed us to reduce our unit operating costs, measured by our Adjusted CASM (excluding fuel), from 7.89¢ for the year ending December 31, 2013 to 5.43¢ for the year ending December 31, 2016, which is among the lowest of all airlines operating in the United States and compares to an average of 9.08¢ for legacy network carriers, which include American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines, an average of 7.85¢ for LCCs, which include JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines, and 5.94¢ and 5.45¢ for Allegiant Travel Company and Spirit Airlines, respectively. Our low-cost structure is driven by several factors:

 

    High Aircraft Utilization. We have high aircraft utilization, which during 2016 averaged 12.6 hours per day. This compares to an average during 2016 of 9.8 hours per day for legacy network carriers, an average of 10.5 hours per day for LCCs, and 12.4 and 6.3 hours per day for Spirit Airlines and Allegiant Travel Company, respectively.

 

   

Modern Fleet and Attractive Order Book. We operate a modern fleet composed solely of Airbus A320 family aircraft, which are recognized as having high reliability and low operating costs. Operating a single family of aircraft provides us with several operational and cost advantages, including the ability to optimize crew scheduling and training, and maintenance. Since 2013, we have steadily reduced the number of A319 aircraft in our fleet, replacing them with larger and more cost-efficient A320ceo and

 

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A320neo aircraft (180 to 186 seats) and A321ceo aircraft (230 seats). As of December 31, 2016, the average age of our fleet was approximately six years. In addition, we have an attractive order book of new, fuel-efficient aircraft, including, as of December 31, 2016, 76 A320neo family aircraft. We believe, once all A320neo aircraft are delivered through 2021, we will have the fastest adoption rate of A320neo aircraft (as a percentage of total fleet) among U.S. carriers.

 

    Fuel Efficient Fleet. In 2015, we were named one of the industry’s most fuel-efficient airlines operating in 2014 by The International Council on Clean Transportation as a result of superior technology and operational efficiencies. Furthermore, the A320neo family aircraft that we have begun to place in service are estimated to deliver approximately 15% improved fuel efficiency compared to the prior generation of A320 aircraft.

 

    High Capacity Fleet. We have increased the seat density on our A319ceo aircraft from 138 seats to 150 seats and the seat density on our prior generation of A320 aircraft from 168 seats to 180 seats during 2015. Across our entire fleet, we have grown from an average of 145 seats per aircraft in 2013 to 173 seats per aircraft in 2016, a 19% growth in the average number of seats per aircraft. Our fleet features new and lightweight slim-line seats, which eliminate excess weight and reduce fuel consumption per seat. As of March 31, 2017, we had the highest seat density per A320ceo/neo and A321ceo aircraft operated by any U.S. airline.

 

    Low Cost Distribution Model. For the years ended December 31, 2016 and 2015, approximately 63% and 58%, respectively, of our tickets were sold directly to customers through our direct distribution channels, including our website and mobile app, our lowest cost distribution channels, versus approximately 51% for the year ended December 31, 2014. We also reduced our distribution costs per passenger following the renegotiation of our distribution agreements.

 

    Highly Productive Workforce and Specialist Providers. We have a highly productive workforce with 4,723 passengers per full-time equivalent employee for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2016. Where it is efficient for us to do so, we contract with third-party specialists to provide us with select operating and other services.

Our Superior Brand. We believe establishing our brand as a premier ULCC positions us to generate greater customer loyalty, which enabled us to generate a unit revenue premium over Spirit Airlines, the largest ULCC in the United States, during the year ended December 31, 2016. Our superior brand is demonstrated by our significant number of repeat customers. According to a survey we conducted in February 2017, over 85% of our passengers surveyed were repeat customers and 61% had flown with us two or more times during the previous 12 months. The key features of our brand include:

 

    Significant customer value delivered through low fares with the choice of reasonably priced unbundled and bundled options, including The Works and The Perks.

 

    Family-friendly elements that appeal to a large audience, such as an attentive staff, popular animals on our aircraft tails, novelty cards for children and amenity packages tailored for families.

 

    A carefully designed look and feel, which is more upscale than traditional ULCCs, including our livery, our website and mobile applications, uniforms, seat design, on-board products and other graphical brand marketing components.

 

    A strong online presence with a customer-friendly digital platform that includes a new passenger reservation system, improved website and our mobile app.

 

    Our modern fleet with amenities such as extra seat padding, the widest economy middle seat on a narrow-body aircraft of any U.S. ULCC or LCC and our Stretch seating option, which provides a comfortable 33 inch seat pitch.

 

    The best operational performance among U.S. ULCCs for the year ended December 31, 2016 in terms of on-time performance and completion factor, according to the DOT.

 

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Our Network Management. We plan our route network and airport footprint to focus on profitable existing routes and new routes where we believe our business model will stimulate demand and grow profitability. This has enabled us to reduce the seasonality of our revenue, increase revenues, improve utilization, lower unit costs and enhance profitability in each of 2014, 2015 and 2016. The key features of our network include:

 

    A broad geographic footprint, which enables us to service a wide range of VFR and leisure destinations.

 

    A strong presence in medium-sized markets.

 

    A disciplined and methodical approach to both route selection and the removal of underperforming routes.

 

    An operational platform that includes nationwide crew and maintenance bases, creating access to lower risk growth opportunities while maintaining high operational standards and enabling high utilization.

Our Talented ULCC Leadership Team. Our management team has extensive day-to-day experience operating ULCCs and other airlines.

 

    Barry L. Biffle, our President and Chief Executive Officer, previously served as Chief Executive Officer of VivaColombia, Executive Vice President for Spirit Airlines and held various management roles with US Airways and American Eagle Airlines, a regional airline subsidiary of American Airlines, Inc.

 

    James G. Dempsey, our Chief Financial Officer, previously served as Treasurer and Head of Investor Relations for Ryanair after serving in management roles with PricewaterhouseCoopers.

 

    James E. Nides, our acting Chief Operating Officer, previously served as Chief Operating Officer of Volaris and has extensive prior experience at Continental Express.

 

    Daniel M. Shurz, our Senior Vice President, Commercial, previously served in various roles with United Airlines and Air Canada.

Low Fares Done Right—Our Business Strategy

Our goal is to offer the most attractive option for air travel with a compelling combination of value, product and service, and, in so doing, to grow profitably and enhance our position among airlines in the United States. Through the key elements of our business strategy, we seek to achieve:

Low Unit Costs. We intend to maintain our cost advantage, including by:

 

    Maintaining the high utilization levels we achieved in 2016.

 

    Utilizing new generation, fuel-efficient aircraft that deliver lower operating costs compared to prior generation aircraft.

 

    Increasing the average size and seat capacity of the aircraft in our fleet through the continued introduction and operation of new 186-seat A320neo and 230-seat A321ceo aircraft and the retirement of additional A319 aircraft.

 

    Taking a disciplined approach to our operational performance in order to reduce disruption.

A Superior ULCC Brand and High Unit Revenues. In order to enhance our brand and drive revenue growth, we intend to continue to deliver a higher-quality flight experience than historically offered by ULCCs globally and generate customer loyalty by:

 

    Continuing to offer attractive low fares.

 

    Expanding our marketing efforts, including through the addition of new animals for each of our new aircraft, to position our brand as a family-friendly ULCC.

 

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    Continuing to improve penetration of our bundling options, including The Works and The Perks.

 

    Enhancing our Early Returns offering to improve reward opportunities for our branded credit card customers.

 

    Providing our customers a dependable, reliable, on-time and friendly experience.

Strong Growth Driven by an Expanding and Efficient Network. We intend to continue to utilize our disciplined and methodical approach to expand our network in an efficient manner, including by:

 

    Continuing to exploit overpriced and/or underserved markets across the U.S. and select international destinations in the Americas, including medium-sized markets, where a majority of our seat capacity was deployed during 2016.

 

    Leveraging our diverse geographic footprint and existing crew and maintenance base infrastructure to take advantage of lower risk network growth opportunities while maintaining high operational standards.

 

    Utilizing our low cost structure to offer low fares which organically drive growth through market stimulation.

 

    Continuing to rebalance our network to mitigate seasonality fluctuations.

Strong Capital Structure. We intend to maintain our strong capital structure to support our growth strategies and expansion of our fleet and network by utilizing:

 

    Our $150 million pre-delivery financing facility, which we recently extended to 2019 and from which we had drawn $143 million as of December 31, 2016.

 

    Continued financing of aircraft with attractive operating leases.

 

    Our $50 million pre-purchased miles facility, from which we had drawn $39 million of the amount available as of December 31, 2016.

Our Fares and the Choices We Offer

We provide low-fare passenger airline service primarily to travelers or VFRs and leisure travelers. Our low fares are designed to stimulate demand from price-sensitive travelers and consist of a base fare, plus taxes and governmental fees. For the year ended December 31, 2016, our total revenue per passenger was approximately $114.72.

We combine our low fares with flexible optional services for an additional cost. Such additional options include carry-on and checked baggage, advance seat selection, our extended-legroom Stretch seats, ticket changes and cancellations, refundability, and commissions from the sale of hotel rooms, rental cars and trip insurance. In 2015, we introduced The Works, a hassle-free option that includes a guaranteed seat assignment, carry-on and checked baggage, ticket refundability and changes and priority boarding, all at an attractive low price and available only on our website. In 2016, we expanded our bundled product offering with The Perks, which enables customers to book the same amenities included in The Works, excluding refundability and ticket changes, through third parties. We also promote and sell products in flight to enhance the customer experience, including snacks and alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. In 2016, we introduced a new convenient onboard payment system that enables customers to make multiple purchases with a single credit card transaction. Our other revenues also include services such as our Early Returns affinity credit card program and our Discount Den ultra low-fare subscription service. For the years ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014, our average non-ticket revenue per passenger was $48.57, $30.45 and $21.69, respectively, and non-ticket revenue represented 42%, 25% and 17%, respectively, of our total revenue.

Route Network

The low unit cost, high quality of service and dependability that make Low Fares Done Right successful have enabled us to implement a network strategy that primarily targets high fare or underserved markets, where

 

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our low fares stimulate new traffic flows. In addition, we also focus on providing air transportation from medium-sized markets (as categorized by the Office of Management and Budget) to a wide range of VFR and leisure destinations.

As of December 2016, we served 59 airports throughout the United States, the Caribbean and Mexico, and we served 28 of the 43 medium-sized markets in the United States, including Denver. Approximately 45% of our flights had Denver International Airport as its origin or destination at such time. Five other domestic markets make up the majority of our departures outside of Denver, including Orlando, Las Vegas, Chicago, Phoenix and Philadelphia, which accounted for 9.5%, 7.2%, 4.4%, 3.6% and 3.2% of our departures, respectively, as of December 2016.

Below is a map of routes we operated in 2016 (including routes we operate on a seasonal basis):

 

 

LOGO

We use publicly available data related to existing traffic, fares and capacity in domestic markets as well as other data sources to identify growth opportunities. To monitor the profitability of each route, we analyze monthly profitability reports as well as actual and forecast advanced bookings. We routinely make capacity adjustments within our network based on the financial performance of our markets, and we discontinue service in markets where we determine that long-term profitability is not likely to meet our expectations.

Since our acquisition in December 2013, we have significantly diversified our markets exposure by expanding our presence in U.S. markets that complement our Denver franchise, including Orlando, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Atlanta, Trenton, Chicago and Phoenix. By continuing to add routes between other markets, we expect to leverage our brand and our existing base of loyal customers in these markets

 

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to enable us to grow our share of revenue in such markets, We expect to utilize our current footprint to further diversify our route network, provide growth into additional strategic markets and expand our customer base as we gain new customers in such markets.

Competition

The airline industry is highly competitive. The principal competitive factors in the airline industry are fare pricing, total price, flight schedules, aircraft type, passenger amenities, number of routes served from a city, customer service, safety record and reputation, code-sharing relationships, and frequent flyer programs and redemption opportunities. Our competitors and potential competitors include legacy network carriers, low-cost carriers, ULCCs and new entrant airlines. We typically compete in markets served by traditional network airlines, low-cost carriers, the other U.S. ULCCs and regional airlines.

Our principal competitors on domestic routes are Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Travel Company, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, United Airlines and Virgin America (acquired by Alaska Airlines in December 2016). With respect to the legacy network carriers and LCCs, our principal competitive advantage is our low cost structure, low base fares and our focus on the VFR and leisure traveler. We believe our low cost structure allows us to price our fares at levels where we can be profitable while the legacy network carriers and our LCC competitors cannot. We believe the association of our brand with a high level of operational performance differentiates us from the other U.S. ULCCs and enables us to generate greater customer loyalty. In addition, as a result of our Low Fares Done Right strategy of distinguishing our service offering from other airlines, including other ULCC airlines, we have been able to generate a unit revenue premium over Spirit Airlines, the largest ULCC in the United States, during the year ended December 31, 2016.

The following table summarizes the RASM and Adjusted CASM (excluding fuel) of the legacy network airlines, LCCs and ULCCs of significant size in the United States for the year ended December 31, 2016:

 

Carrier

   RASM(1)     Adj.
CASM (Ex. Fuel)(1)(3)
 

Legacy Network Carriers

    

Alaska Airlines (pro forma for acquisition of Virgin America)(2)

     12.51 ¢      8.04 ¢ 

American Airlines(2)

     13.86 ¢      9.54 ¢ 

Delta Air Lines(2)

     15.08 ¢      9.75 ¢ 

United Airlines(2)

     13.58 ¢      9.38 ¢ 

Hawaiian Airlines

     13.33 ¢      8.71 ¢ 

Low-Cost Carriers

    

JetBlue Airways

     12.37 ¢      7.59 ¢ 

Southwest Airlines

     13.75 ¢      8.10 ¢ 

Ultra Low-Cost Carriers

    

Frontier Airlines

     9.33 ¢      5.43 ¢ 

Allegiant Travel Company

     11.01 ¢      5.94 ¢ 

Spirit Airlines

     9.11 ¢      5.45 ¢ 

 

(1) See “Glossary of Airline Terms.”
(2) Mainline only.
(3) As formulated by each carrier in its public reports, excluding, among other things, special charges, third-party business expenses, fuel and profit sharing. These measures may not be comparable across all airlines.

The airline industry is particularly susceptible to price discounting because, once a flight is scheduled, airlines incur only nominal incremental costs to provide service to passengers occupying otherwise unsold seats. Price competition occurs on a market-by-market basis through price discounts, changes in pricing structures, fare

 

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matching, target promotions and frequent flyer initiatives. Airlines typically use discount fares and other promotions to stimulate traffic during normally slower travel periods to generate cash flow and to maximize RASM. The prevalence of discount fares can be particularly acute when a competitor has excess capacity that it is under financial pressure to sell. A key element of our competitive strategy is to maintain very low unit costs in order to permit us to compete successfully in price-sensitive markets. See also “Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Industry—The airline industry is exceedingly competitive, and we compete against legacy network carriers, low-cost carriers and other ultra low-cost carriers; if we are not able to compete successfully in our markets, our business will be materially adversely affected.”

Many airlines have marketing alliances with other airlines, under which they market and advertise their status as marketing alliance partners. Such alliances generally provide for code-sharing, frequent flyer program reciprocity, coordinated scheduling of flights to permit convenient connections and other joint marketing activities. We currently do not have any alliances with U.S. or foreign airlines. Please see “Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Industry—Our lack of membership in a marketing alliance could harm our business and competitive position.”

Distribution

We primarily sell our product through direct distribution channels, including our website, mobile app and our call center with our website and mobile app serving as the primary platforms for ticket sales. Approximately 63% and 58% of our total tickets sold for the years ended December 31, 2016 and 2015, respectively, were sold directly to our customers through these distribution channels. Sales through our website and mobile app represent our lowest cost distribution channels.

We also offer the option to purchase tickets through third parties, such as travel agents who access us through GDS companies (e.g., Amadeus, Galileo, Sabre and Worldspan) and select online travel agents, or OTAs (e.g., Priceline and websites owned by Expedia, including Orbitz and Travelocity). Third-party channels represented approximately 37% and 42% of sales the years ended December 31, 2016 and 2015, respectively. We maintain a zero percent standard commission policy for travel agency bookings worldwide unless local regulations mandate that we pay a commission. We also have agreements with all the leading GDS companies. GDSs provide flight schedules and pricing information and allow travel agents to electronically book a flight reservation without separately contacting our reservations facility.

Marketing and Brand

We are focused on direct-to-consumer marketing targeted at our core VFR and leisure travelers. According to a survey we conducted in February 2017, leisure, VFRs and business travelers represented 51%, 42% and 7% of our total passengers over the previous 12 months. Our principal marketing message to our customers is our Low Fares Done Right strategy. Consistent with our ULCC business model, we use a simple marketing message to keep marketing costs low and we regularly offer promotional base fares of $29 or less.

Our principal marketing tools are our proprietary email distribution list consisting of over seven million email addresses, our Early Returns frequent flyer program and our Discount Den subscription service as well as advertisements in online, television, radio and other channels. Our objective is to use our low prices, superior customer service, price-based promotions and creativity to produce viral marketing programs that are cost effective.

In 2014, we redesigned the livery of our aircraft in order to enhance our brand. Our new and improved livery includes our unique and Frontier stylized “F” that was first introduced in 1978, our website address, a large arrow that was first adopted on a fleet of our predecessor’s DC-3s and signature Frontier green color scheme. In addition, each of our aircraft features one of our widely-recognized animals on its tail and is named after such bird or animal. We utilize these animals in several of our online marketing campaigns and on the novelty cards we distribute to children onboard.

 

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We spent approximately 4.2% and 4.9% as a percentage of total revenues on marketing, brand and distribution for the years ended December 31, 2016 and 2015, respectively.

Loyalty and Membership Programs

Our Early Returns frequent flyer program rewards and encourages customer loyalty and enables sales of miles to marketing partners. In 2015, we enhanced the Early Returns program by adding a new elite tier, Frontier Elite, and retiring our legacy tier structure. The Early Returns MasterCard is the primary vehicle whereby customers earn miles and our frequent flyer program is geared specifically towards supporting adoption and continued use of the credit card.

Early Returns offers award travel on every flight without blackout dates. All award tickets are subject to redemption fees, which are waived for all Frontier Elite Members, all Frontier MasterCard holders (if they redeem 21 days prior to departure) and Early Returns Base Members who purchase tickets 180 days prior to departure. There are three types of travel awards: Economy Award Tickets require the lowest mileage, Choice Award Tickets are more widely available at double the mileage requirement and Last Seat Availability Award Tickets are exclusively available to Frontier Elite Members. One-way awards require as few as 10,000 miles. The program also calculates a year-end status level, and currently miles never expire as long as a customer earns miles at least every six months.

The Discount Den is an annual subscription based service that allows members exclusive access to the lowest fares on offer and first access to seats when our selling schedule is extended. Members pay $49.99 per year to become a member of the Discount Den.

Customers

We believe our product appeals to price-sensitive customers because we give them the choice to pay only for the products and services they want. In addition, we believe our product is particularly attractive to families because our fleet features popular and widely-recognized animals on our aircraft tails, we provide children with novelty cards on each flight, we offer amenity packages tailored for families on board and our staff are committed to our goal of providing excellent customer service. Overall, our business model is designed to deliver what we believe our customers want: low fares and a high quality flight experience. While we are not focused on stimulating business travel, we believe our low fares do attract a significant number of small business travelers who bear their own travel costs.

Operational Performance

We are committed to delivering excellent operational performance, which we believe will strengthen customer loyalty and attract new customers. The DOT publishes statistics regarding measures of customer satisfaction for domestic airlines and can assess civil penalties for failure to comply with certain customer service obligations. We are also periodically subject to audit by the DOT and an audit is currently ongoing. Our performance under operational performance measures for the years ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014 was as follows:

 

     Year Ended December 31,  
     2016      2015      2014  

On-Time Performance(1)

     76.0      73.2      74.1

Completion Factor(2)

     98.8      99.4      99.6

 

(1) Percentage of our scheduled flights that were operated by us that were on-time (within 15 minutes).
(2) Percentage of our scheduled flights that were operated by us, whether or not delayed (i.e., not cancelled), derived from DOT cancellation statistics.

 

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In the year ended December 31, 2016, we achieved the best operational performance among U.S. ULCCs in terms of on-time performance and completion factor, according to the DOT. Our significantly improved operational performance has led to a 25% reduction in the rate of DOT customer complaints for the year ended December 31, 2016 as compared to 2015.

Fleet

We fly only Airbus A320 family aircraft, which provides us significant operational and cost advantages compared to airlines that operate multiple fleet types. Flight crews are entirely interchangeable across all of our aircraft, and maintenance, spare parts inventories and other operational support are highly simplified relative to more complex fleets. Due to this commonality among Airbus single-aisle aircraft, we can retain the benefits of a fleet composed of a single type of aircraft while still having the flexibility to match the capacity and range of the aircraft to the demands of each route.

As of December 31, 2016, we had a fleet of 66 Airbus single-aisle aircraft, consisting of 22 A319s, 27 A320s, four A320neos and 13 A321s. The average age of the fleet was approximately six years as of December 31, 2016. Of the existing aircraft, 60 were financed under operating leases. The operating leases with respect to seven, 13 and three aircraft of our fleet are scheduled to terminate in 2017, 2018 and 2019, respectively. We intend to replace those 23 aircraft with A320neo family aircraft. Our current fleet plan calls for growth to 121 aircraft by the end of 2021. We have a firm purchase commitment with Airbus to acquire 76 A320neo family aircraft and six A321ceo aircraft by 2021. We also have a firm purchase commitment for 12 additional spare aircraft engines. We may elect to supplement these deliveries by additional acquisitions from the manufacturer or in the open market if demand conditions merit. We are also assessing our potential needs in 2021 and beyond to replace aircraft scheduled to come off of lease and provide additional capacity. Our order book as of December 31, 2016 was comprised of the following aircraft:

 

     A319neo      A320neo      A321      Total
Aircraft
     Engines  

2017

     —          11        6        17        3  

2018

     —          16        —          16        2  

2019

     —          18        —          18        2  

2020

     5        13        —          18        2  

2021

     13        —          —          13        2  

Thereafter

     —          —          —          —          1  
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total

     18        58        6        82        12  
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Consistent with our ULCC business model, each of our aircraft is configured with a high density seating configuration. Our A319s equipped with two over-wing exits accommodate 150 passengers (compared to 145 on Spirit Airlines, 119 on Virgin America, 128 on United Airlines and up to 128 on American Airlines), our A320s accommodate up to 186 passengers (compared to up to 182 on Spirit Airlines, 149 on Virgin America and 150 on United Airlines, JetBlue Airways and American Airlines) and our A321s accommodate 230 passengers (compared to up to 228 on Spirit Airlines, up to 200 on JetBlue Airways and up to 187 on American Airlines).

 

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Aircraft Fuel

Aircraft fuel is our largest expense representing 25%, 27% and 39% of our total operating costs for the years ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014, respectively. The price and availability of jet fuel are volatile due to global economic and geopolitical factors as well as domestic and local supply factors. Our historical fuel consumption and costs were as follows:

 

         Year Ended December 31,      
     2016      2015      2014  

Gallons consumed (millions)

     216        195        165  

Average price per gallon

   $ 1.59      $ 1.90      $ 3.26  

Average price per gallon includes related fuel fees and taxes as well as effective fuel-hedging gains and losses.

We maintain an active hedging program designed to reduce our exposure to sudden, sharp increases in fuel prices. We regularly review our fuel hedging program and, accordingly, the specific hedging instruments we use, the amount of our future hedges and the time period covered by our hedge portfolio vary from time to time depending on our view of market conditions and other factors. Among the hedging instruments we have used in the past and may use in the future include options and collar contracts on jet fuel, fixed forward price contracts, or FFPs, which allow us to lock in the price of jet fuel for specified quantities and at specified locations in future periods, and call options. As of December 31, 2016, we had hedges in place for approximately 73% of our projected fuel requirements in 2017 at an average strike price of $1.78 per gallon and approximately 20% of our projected fuel requirements for the month of January 2018 at a strike price of $1.75 per gallon, with all of our then existing call options expected to be exercised or expire by 2018.

Maintenance and Repairs

We have a FAA mandated and approved maintenance program, which is administered by our technical operations department. Our maintenance technicians undergo extensive initial and recurrent training. Aircraft maintenance and repair consists of routine and non-routine maintenance, and work performed is divided into three general categories: line maintenance, heavy maintenance and component service.

Line maintenance consists of routine daily and weekly scheduled maintenance checks on our aircraft. We categorize our line maintenance into four stations and each line maintenance station is categorized by the scope and complexity of work performed. Line maintenance is performed in Denver, Chicago, Cleveland, Orlando and Atlanta and represents the majority of and most extensive maintenance we perform.

Major airframe maintenance checks consist of a series of more complex tasks that can take from one to four weeks to accomplish and typically are required approximately every 20 months. Engine overhauls and engine performance restoration events are quite extensive and can take two months. We maintain an inventory of spare engines to provide for continued operations during engine maintenance events. We expect to begin the initial planned engine maintenance overhauls on our new engine fleet approximately four to six years after the date of manufacture and introduction into our fleet, with subsequent engine maintenance every four to six years thereafter. Due to our relatively small fleet size and projected fleet growth, we believe outsourcing all of our heavy maintenance, engine restoration and major part repair, is more economical. We have entered into a long-term flight hour agreement for our engine overhaul services and an hour-by-hour basis agreement for component services. We also outsource heavy airframe maintenance. These contracts cover the majority of our aircraft component inventory acquisition, replacement and repairs, thereby eliminating the need to carry expensive spare parts inventory.

 

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The operating leases with respect to seven, 13 and three aircraft of our fleet are scheduled to terminate in 2017, 2018 and 2019, respectively. Prior to such aircraft being returned, we will incur costs to restore these aircraft to the condition required by the terms of the underlying operating leases.

We currently have an obligation to purchase 82 aircraft by the end of 2021. We expect that these new aircraft will require less maintenance when they are first placed in service (sometimes called a “maintenance holiday”) because the aircraft will benefit from manufacturer warranties and also will be able to operate for a significant period of time, generally measured in years, before the most expensive scheduled maintenance obligations, known as heavy maintenance, are required. Once these maintenance holidays expire, these aircraft will require more maintenance as it ages and our maintenance and repair expenses for each of our aircraft will be incurred at approximately the same intervals. See “Risk Factors—Risks Relating to Our Business—Our maintenance costs will increase over the near term, and we will periodically incur substantial maintenance costs due to the maintenance schedules of our aircraft fleet.”

Employees

As of December 31, 2016, we had 3,412 employees, consisting of 1,105 pilots, 1,593 flight attendants, 20 flight dispatchers, 94 maintenance, 40 aircraft appearance agents, 24 material specialists, 13 maintenance controllers and 523 employees in administrative roles.

FAA regulations require pilots to have commercial licenses with specific ratings for the aircraft to be flown, and to be medically certified as physically fit to fly. FAA and medical certifications are subject to periodic renewal requirements including recurrent training and recent flying experience. Mechanics, quality-control inspectors, and flight dispatchers must be certificated and qualified for specific aircraft. Flight attendants must have initial and periodic competency training and qualification. Training programs are subject to approval and monitoring by the FAA. Management personnel directly involved in the supervision of flight operations, training, maintenance, and aircraft inspection must also meet experience standards prescribed by FAA regulations. All safety-sensitive employees are subject to pre-employment, random, and post-accident drug testing.

We focus on hiring highly productive employees and, where feasible, designing systems and processes around automation and the utilization of third-party specialists in order to maintain our low-cost base. With respect to pilots, given the pilot shortage being experienced by parts of the industry, particularly regional airlines, one of our operational priorities is to maintain a robust pipeline of qualified pilot candidates. In 2016, we received approximately 10 pilot applications for every one pilot hired. This pipeline is partially the result of recruiting and selection arrangements we have recently entered into with several regional airlines that are not affiliated with any of the legacy network airlines. Under these mutual recruiting and selection arrangements, we jointly recruit, interview and select candidates to become Frontier pilots after successfully meeting defined training and flight experience requirements with one of the feeder regional airlines. We have found these arrangements to be beneficial to our company because we are able to identify an attractive flow of pilot candidates and to be beneficial to the feeder regional airline because it is better able to recruit entry level pilots if it is able to offer those candidates an opportunity to graduate to a mainline airline, such as Frontier. In addition, we believe we are an attractive employer for pilots as a result of our strong growth, which provides our pilots with career progression opportunities and enables them to achieve substantial pay increases within the first three years of employment under the collective bargaining agreement with our pilots. For example, as a result of our continuing fleet expansion, all of our First Officers hired since late-2013 have been eligible for upgrade to Captain within 24 to 36 months of joining the company.

 

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As of December 31, 2016, approximately 85% of our employees were represented by labor unions under collective-bargaining agreements, as follows:

 

Employee Groups

   Number of Employees    Representative   

Status of Agreement/Amendable
Date

Pilots

   1,105    Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA)    Became amendable in March 2016. In negotiation.

Flight Attendants

   1,593    Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA)    Became amendable in July 2015. In negotiation.

Dispatchers

   20    Transport Workers Union (TWU)    New Contract ratified in December 2016.

Material Specialists

   24    International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT)    New Contract ratified in March 2017.

Aircraft Appearance Agents

   40    IBT    Became amendable in July 2015. In negotiation.

Maintenance Controllers

   13    IBT    Became amendable in August 2014. In negotiation.

Maintenance

   94    IBT    New Contract ratified in February 2017

The Railway Labor Act, or RLA, governs our relations with labor organizations. Under the RLA, the collective bargaining agreements generally do not expire, but instead become amendable as of a stated date. If either party wishes to modify the terms of any such agreement, they must notify the other party in the manner agreed to by the parties. Under the RLA, after receipt of such notice, the parties must meet for direct negotiations, and if no agreement is reached, either party may request the National Mediation Board, or NMB, to appoint a federal mediator. The RLA prescribes no set timetable for the direct negotiation and mediation process. It is not unusual for those processes to last for many months, and even for a few years. If no agreement is reached in mediation, the NMB in its discretion may declare at some time that an impasse exists, and if an impasse is declared, the NMB proffers binding arbitration to the parties. Either party may decline to submit to arbitration. If arbitration is rejected by either party, a 30-day “cooling off” period commences. During that period (or after), a Presidential Emergency Board, or PEB, may be established, which examines the parties’ positions and recommends a solution. The PEB process lasts for 30 days and is followed by another “cooling off” period of 30 days. At the end of a “cooling off” period, unless an agreement is reached or action is taken by Congress, the labor organization may strike and the airline may resort to “self-help,” including the imposition of any or all of its proposed amendments and the hiring of new employees to replace any striking workers. Congress and the President have the authority to prevent “self-help” by enacting legislation that, among other things, impos