Updated: February 9, 2012 at 12:00 am
Frontier Airlines announced Thursday it will launch nonstop flights in May from Colorado Springs to Los Angeles, Phoenix, Seattle and Portland, Ore., the largest expansion of air service in Colorado Springs in more than a decade.
“Passengers will no longer have to drive or fly to Denver to get our low fares,” Daniel Shurz, a Frontier senior vice president, said during an interview after the flights were announced. Frontier began service in Colorado Springs with flights to Denver nearly four years ago.
Although United Express operates daily nonstop flights to Los Angeles International Airport and Allegiant Air offers twice weekly flights to Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, no carrier has offered daily service between the Springs and the Arizona city’s primary airport — Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport — since U.S. Airways halted service Jan. 4, 2010. No airline has offered nonstop flights from the Springs to either Portland International Airport or Seattle-Tacoma International Airport since Western Pacific Airlines, which started in the Springs in the mid-1990s, moved its hub to Denver in 1997 and later shut down.
Frontier now operates five to six daily nonstop flights between the Springs and Denver on 70- to 90-seat regional jets. It will use 138-seat Airbus A319 aircraft on the new routes.
“This is the biggest expansion of service by any single airline since the departure of WestPac,” said Mark Earle, the city’s aviation director. “Higher fuel prices have forced airlines to restructure and try to figure out how to serve smaller markets with larger jets since they are phasing out less fuel-efficient regional jets they had been using to serve these markets. With the three- and four-day-a-week service to Portland and Seattle, Frontier is using its most fuel-efficient aircraft at the times and days that people in Colorado Springs most want to fly.”
The added flights are welcome news for the Colorado Springs Airport, which has seen passenger traffic decline as airlines have reduced capacity on local flights. Traffic fell 12.4 percent in November from the same month a year earlier; traffic for the first 11 months of 2011 was down 5.7 percent from 2010. Airport officials estimate the new Frontier flights, along with flight additions by other airlines, will boost traffic this year by 8.2 percent from last year’s level and would result in another 10 percent increase in 2013 from a full year of flights to Los Angeles and Phoenix.
But the potential impact goes beyond the Springs airport. The new flights will help retain existing businesses and attract new employers to the Springs, said Dave Csintyan, a spokesman for the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC.
“In our conversations with business leaders, it is hard to complete the first sentence without a conversation about increasing our service,” Csintyan said. “These new flights will increase the capacity of our air service, make travel more efficient and save time flying to those destinations.”
Shurz, the Frontier senior vice president, said the carrier has “been looking for opportunities across the country and we have paid a lot of attention to the opportunities along the Front Range, where our brand is best known. When we looked at Colorado Springs, we saw that there has been a sizable gain in population and growth in the economy and business. We also saw that there was a lack of capacity here and that fares are very high. This seemed like that most natural opportunity for us outside of Denver,” where the carrier is based.
Frontier’s flights in the Springs have “performed well,” Shurz said. In a press release on the new flights, he hinted at further expansion: “Our commitment to Colorado Springs extends far beyond the addition of these new markets. We look forward to becoming a bigger part of the southern Colorado community.”
Frontier is expected receive an estimated $480,000 next year in rebates from the airport under an incentive program the airport operates to encourage airlines to add flights and destinations to their local schedules, said Gisela Shanahan, the airport’s assistant director for finance and administration. Those incentives are available for up to three years to any airline and include a full rebate of all landing fees, a rebate of any increased income the airport the airport receives from new service after expenses are subtracted and marketing assistance totaling 35 cents per seat.
The flights from the Springs are the first expansion for Frontier outside of its Denver hub since it completed a restructuring last year in which it cut about $120 million in annual costs through more efficient schedules, changing how it uses its fleet and cutting flights. Republic Airways Holdings acquired Frontier in 2009 out of bankruptcy but announced plans in November to either sell Frontier or spin it off as separate company.
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SCHEDULE OF UPCOMING NEW FLIGHTS
• Flight 345 operates daily except Sunday, leaving Colorado Springs at 7 a.m. and arriving at Los Angeles International Airport at 8:21 a.m. Flight 344 operates daily except Saturday, leaving Los Angeles at 6:40 p.m. and arriving in the Springs at 9:46 p.m. The introductory one-way fare is $69 is available through Feb. 29 for travel through June 18; fares increase by $10 for tickets bought 14 days in advance through May 18 for travel through Sept. 9.
• Flight 299 operates daily, leaving the Springs at 9:55 a.m. and arriving in at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport at 10.38 a.m. Flight 298 operates daily, leaving Phoenix at 11:18 a.m. and arriving in the Springs at 1:50 p.m. The introductory one-way fare is $49 is available through Feb. 29 for travel through June 18; fares increase by $10 for tickets bought 14 days in advance through May 18 for travel through Sept. 9.
• Flight 159 operates on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, leaving the Springs at 2:30 p.m. and arriving in at Seattle-Tacoma International at 4:21 p.m. Flight 158 operates on the same days as Flight 158, leaving Seattle at 5:05 p.m. and arriving in the Springs at 8:45 p.m. The introductory one-way fare is $89 is available through Feb. 29 for travel through June 18; fares increase by $10 for tickets bought 14 days in advance through May 18 for travel through Sept. 9.
• Flight 155 operates on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, leaving the Springs at 12:30 p.m. and arriving in at Portland International Airport at 4:12 p.m. Flight 154 operates on the same days as Flight 155, leaving Portland at 4:55 p.m. and arriving in the Springs at 8:25 p.m. The introductory one-way fare is $89 is available through Feb. 29 for travel through June 20; fares increase by $10 for tickets bought 14 days in advance through May 20 for travel through Sept. 9.