Frontier returns to New Castle Airport
After a five-year hiatus, Frontier Airlines returned to the New Castle Airport offering low-fare flights to Orlando, Florida. 2/11/21
Damian Giletto, Delaware News Journal
Frontier Airlines is ending its service to and from the New Castle Airport, the airline confirmed to Delaware Online/The News Journal on Friday.
After Frontier completes its final flight on June 6, Delaware will once again be the only state without commercial airline service.
“Sufficient demand did not materialize to support the service,” Frontier spokesperson Jennifer de la Cruz said in a statement.
“We are continually evaluating our routes and [the New Castle Airport] will certainly remain in the consideration set for potential service in the future.”
Delaware River and Bay Authority spokesperson Jim Salmon in a statement said DRBA, which operates the airport, is “disappointed” with Frontier’s decision, but continues to believe commercial air service “can and will succeed” at the airport.
This is the second time Frontier has left Delaware. After two years of service, Frontier quietly ended its commercial flights from the New Castle Airport in 2015. The move left some customers with tickets to flights that no longer existed.
In January 2020, Frontier announced plans to return to Delaware with flights from the New Castle Airport to Orlando, Florida, scheduled to begin the following May.
At the time, Frontier executive Daniel Shurz said, “I’m telling you, we’re here to stay.”
Shurz pitched Frontier as a larger, more efficient business in 2020 with a foothold next door in Philadelphia to build from. It would start small and add more flights as the business developed as opposed to offering a large number of east-to-west trips from the beginning.
But Shurz also warned, “If we don’t see the right results relatively quickly, we will absolutely pull service.”
Those May flights never took off as the COVID-19 pandemic grounded the entire airline industry. Frontier postponed the start of their Delaware service multiple times during the pandemic, eventually starting flights in February 2021.
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By that time, DRBA completed about $2 million worth of renovations to the airport’s screening areas and passenger terminal to prepare for Frontier’s commercial service.
Stephen Williams, DRBA’s airports director, said at the time Frontier’s return was a “commitment to Delaware and a testament to the market sustainability of passenger demand” at the New Castle Airport.
At first, Frontier offered flights to Orlando on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. It eventually rolled the Orlando flights back to Mondays and Fridays. It never added flights to other destinations.
In February, Frontier announced a $3 billion merger deal with its low-budget rival Spirit Airlines. In the companies’ announcementthey said they expected all employees to remain in place and to add 10,000 jobs by 2026.
“We are hopeful that as it rationalizes current and future resources in anticipation of its proposed merger, the airline will choose to strategically restore service in Delaware,” said Salmon, the DRBA spokesperson.
The loss of Frontier will likely impact the airport’s funding. In November, DRBA announced the New Castle Airport surpassed 10,000 boardings for the year, which vaulted them to a higher status with the Federal Aviation Administration.
The change in designation from a “general aviation reliever airport” to a “primary commercial service airport” increased the airport’s annual federal allotment from $150,000 to at least $1 million. The more riders the airport has, the more it receives from the FAA. Frontier also paid fees to use the airport.
July and August were the most popular months for travel from the New Castle Airport last year.
The remaining Frontier flights start at $48.
Salmon said securing new commercial service will “remain one of the airport’s key goals.”
“The airport’s excellent location along the busy I-95 corridor, along with the lowest cost operating environment of any airport in the US, offers customers the opportunity to forego the stress and expense of a big city airport,” Salmon said.