Frontier Airlines adds nonstop to W. Palm Beach from Trenton

A St. Augustine-bound flight at Trenton-Mercer Airport. The Denver-based airline is looking to expand.
A St. Augustine-bound flight at Trenton-Mercer Airport. The Denver-based airline is looking to expand. (TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 08, 2014

Frontier Airlines, which is continuing to add destinations from Trenton-Mercer Airport, announced Wednesday its 18th nonstop city: West Palm Beach, Fla.

The Denver airline, whose business model is to fly mainly to leisure places that people want to go to at low fares they are willing to pay, has applied for a new route to Nassau, Bahamas.

Pending approval from the Bahamian government, Frontier will launch international service between Trenton and Nassau in mid-November. "As usual, we'll put low fares out there to get everyone excited," Frontier senior vice president Daniel Shurz said in an interview.

Service to West Palm Beach will begin Nov. 21, at an introductory fare as low as $59 each way, for travel through March 1, 2015, if booked on before 11:59 p.m. Aug. 9.

Flights will operate three days a week: Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday on Airbus A-319 aircraft.

Since Frontier was acquired by Indigo Partners of Phoenix in November, it has accelerated its strategy of becoming an ultra low-cost carrier.

"We are very happy with how Trenton is performing. We see the results every month, as we continue to get more customers used to using the airport," Shurz said.

Trenton is unique because of the dense population between the New York metropolitan area and Philadelphia. "There is just incredible catchment around Trenton," he said.

Frontier is using a business model more common to low-cost carriers in Europe: find unused and underused secondary airports and add commercial service.

The economic impact on the general aviation airport, located off Exit 2 on I-95, has been significant, although no one has hard numbers.

Frontier brings one million passengers a year through the airport, said Mercer County executive Brian M. Hughes. Last fall, the airport underwent a multimillion-dollar overhaul and is using federal grant money for improvements to runways and taxiways.

Frontier now has 50 flight attendants based at Trenton-Mercer. This summer, 65 ground-service employees handle customers, aircraft, and baggage. Seven employees conduct overnight maintenance checks on aircraft.

"These are jobs that didn't exist," Shurz said. "Our pilots, who aren't based in Trenton, stay in one of the hotels near the airport. The hotels in Ewing have gotten significantly busier."

Frontier's growth strategy has been to find "profitable flying opportunities that are not in Denver," Shurz said. "We are accelerating a process of looking to find other opportunities around the country."

Frontier has succeeded in Trenton where other commercial carriers failed. In 2006, Delta Air Lines flew 50-seat regional jets from Trenton to Atlanta but was competing with Delta's larger aircraft from Philadelphia to Atlanta and "charged a premium to use Trenton," Shurz said.

In 2001, Shuttle America operated 50-seat turbo props in the region, and before that, Eastwind Airlines flew to Boston and Greensboro, N.C.

"The problem was if you were going anywhere other than Boston and Greensboro, there was a more convenient airport for you," Shurz said. "We have offered a large enough number of destinations to get enough people to try the airport. We wanted people to try it, to discover how convenient it was."

"We offer a product that's right for the leisure market," Shurz said. "That's what is different than what everyone else tried."

Frontier now flies from Trenton to Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago-Midway, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Nashville, Orlando, Raleigh-Durham, St. Augustine, St. Louis, and Tampa.

In winter 2015, the airline will seasonally adjust its schedule to focus more north-to-south - emphasizing Florida and adding more frequent service to Tampa, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, and Charlotte, N.C.

Flights to Milwaukee, Minneapolis, St. Louis, and Cleveland will be suspended between January and April, and will likely resume in May, Shurz said.

Frontier will suspend four of its six routes operating out of New Castle Airport near Wilmington next winter. The airline will add flights on smaller planes to Orlando and Tampa.

"We would currently anticipate most of this flying to come back in 2015," Shurz said, adding: "We are looking at some other ideas for the region."


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