Frontier expanding air service from Trenton

Melinda Montgomery, airport manager (front left), leads people to see improvements at the Trenton-Mercer Airport, during Thursday's celebration to mark the airport's expanded service.
Melinda Montgomery, airport manager (front left), leads people to see improvements at the Trenton-Mercer Airport, during Thursday's celebration to mark the airport's expanded service. (MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer)
Posted: November 09, 2013

So far, it's been a love story.

Frontier Airlines began with one flight a week to Orlando from Trenton-Mercer Airport last Nov. 16. The Denver-based carrier announced Thursday it will add three more nonstop destinations - to Cleveland, Nashville, and Indianapolis - for a total of 14 from the small general aviation airport between New York and Philadelphia.

Frontier has made Trenton and New Castle Airport near Wilmington focus cities for operations on the East Coast. At the end of April, Frontier will increase the frequency of flights to seven days a week from Trenton to Chicago-Midway Airport and six days a week to Detroit and Atlanta.

"This airport is uniquely convenient to an incredibly large number of customers," said Frontier senior vice president Daniel Shurz, who was at Trenton-Mercer on Thursday to celebrate a $16.5 million upgrade to the 6,006-foot runway, as well as $875,000 in terminal improvements and $3.5 million for more parking for cars.

"We're pleased with the response we've seen so far to this market from New Jersey and Pennsylvania," Shurz said.

As Frontier expands service, the airport in Ewing hopes to expand with it, said Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes.

Most travelers flying from Trenton are from outside Mercer County, Hughes said. "That shows us that we have a real impact on the region and will continue to have one."

Frontier is being sold to airline investor William Franke and his private equity firm, Indigo Partners L.L.C. The deal is expected to close in the next few weeks.

Franke, who recently stepped down as chairman of Spirit Airlines, said he wanted to transition Frontier into an "ultra-low-cost" carrier, with a model of "unbundling" the price of a plane ticket and charging extra for everything from checked luggage to beverages.

Shurz said Thursday: "We have the support of our new parent [Indigo] to continue expanding here."

By the end of April, Frontier will have 55 flights a week from Trenton.

The announcement of additional routes came during a celebration of the reopening of Trenton airport's longest runway and other improvements. Frontier flights were suspended Sept. 9 for the runway upgrade, and will resume at 7 a.m. Friday to Detroit.

Flights to Cleveland begin Feb. 13, to Indianapolis on April 29 and to Nashville on April 30. Introductory fares of $39 one way to Cleveland and $49 one way to Indianapolis and Nashville are available at flyfrontier.com, if booked before Nov. 16.

Frontier will fly twice a week to Cleveland and three times a week to Indianapolis and Nashville.

Improvements include updated baggage screening; a gate area with more seating, restrooms, and refreshments for passengers after clearing security; and 1,106 parking spaces for cars, up from 870.

A separate lot with 119 spaces will accommodate employees, rental cars, and a free cellphone waiting area for motorists picking up passengers.

But the airport's free parking will end, replaced with a daily rate of $8, or an hourly rate of $2, to pay for the parking improvements, officials said.

Frontier operates two aircraft out of Trenton. That number will rise to three on Feb. 12, the airline said.

Frontier's strategy has been to use a mix of smaller secondary airports, where landing fees are lower but are close to large metropolitan areas, as well as flying from some major airports.

Frontier, whose planes' tails have pictures of animals, usually operates routes two or three times a week, instead of daily. That requires fewer crews and planes are full.


lloyd@phillynews.com

215-854-2831

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