Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Frontier glides back into Colorado Springs Airport (KCOS) after 3-year absence

Frontier Airlines President Barry Biffle presents a model of a Frontier plane to Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers at a press conference Tuesday, January 12, 2016 announcing that Frontier will begin flying non-stop flights to Las Vegas from the Colorado Springs Airport beginning in April. 

Frontier Airlines announced Tuesday it will resume service to Colorado Springs with a daily nonstop flight to Las Vegas starting April 14, with introductory one-way fares of $19. The announcement comes three years after the Denver-based carrier halted local flights.

The announcement was one of 14 new flights to four new destinations Frontier announced Tuesday and 42 new routes announced last week as the carrier takes delivery of 18 Airbus aircraft this year and expands beyond its Denver hub.

None of the new flights are from Denver; Frontier instead is targeting cities like Cincinnati and Orlando with little low-cost competition. Last year, the airline reduced the number of gates it operates at Denver International from 14 to eight and cut 1,160 jobs in Denver, as its passenger traffic there fell by a third in the first 11 months of 2015.

"We have 18 new planes delivering this year, growing the fleet by nine additional units after retirements," Frontier President Barry Biffle said in a news release. "Our low fares enable people to travel who were forced into their car or stay at home. We look forward to welcoming these new fliers soon."

Related:First of several hangars in Colorado Springs Airport commercial zone completed
Frontier will operate the round-trip flight with an 180-seat Airbus A-320 jet, with Flight 1088 leaving Las Vegas daily at 9 a.m. and arriving in the Springs at 11:30 a.m., then leaving the Springs on the return flight, 1089, at 12:30 p.m. and arriving in Las Vegas at 2:55 p.m.

The introductory fare, which includes all fees and taxes but carries restrictions, must be purchased by 11:59 p.m. Feb. 17 for travel through Aug. 15 and be booked on the carrier's website, flyfrontier.com. The regular fare will be $59 for the Springs-Las Vegas route.

Frontier becomes the sixth airline serving Colorado Springs and will be the first to begin service since Alaska Airlines launched nonstop daily flights to Seattle in November 2013. Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air operates nonstop flights on Sunday and Thursday to Las Vegas and recently cut its one-way fare to $36 from $51 for travel later this month.

The new flight will boost the number of seats available on flights from the Springs by 9 percent, ending a decline that began when Frontier began reducing flights in early 2013. Since Frontier's departure, passenger traffic at the airport fell in 24 of 29 months until rising in November for the first time in eight months.

Frontier halted service to the city in April 2013 after a failed 11-month experiment to make the Springs a focus city with nonstop flights to four cities, prompting the airport to cut expenses to attract new service. Without the cuts, landing fees, terminal rent and other costs at the airport would have surged 53.6 percent to $13.79 per passenger.

By paying off and refinancing bonds, eliminating open positions and generating revenue from several new hangars completed or under construction at the airport, fees instead declined by 30.1 percent to $6.28 per passenger, according to Dan Gallagher, the airport's director.

"We have received a lot of positive feedback from airlines about the positive developments in the city and at the airport," Gallagher said. "We have to make sure these flights are successful; we will be focused on making sure of these flights are profitable since any future expansion depends on that."

The airport began trying to persuade Frontier to return to the Springs almost as soon as the carrier left, starting with a telephone call from an airline executive four months after it halted service, asking about the cost reductions the airport was making and continuing with several meetings over the past 2½ years, Gallagher said.

Gallagher said Frontier won't receive any money from a $6 million Aviation Enhancement Fund created in November with donations from El Pomar Foundation, Anschutz Foundation and part-time Springs resident and philanthropist Lyda Hill. The fund, which does not include any tax money, is to be used to help airlines pay some of the costs of new air service, such as leasing gates, ticket counter space and advertising and marketing expenses to promote new flights.

Frontier switched to an "ultra-low-cost carrier" model in April 2014, five months after it was sold to Phoenix-based private equity firm Indigo Partners LLC. Under the cost model used by Allegiant and Spirit Airlines, fares are significantly lower than competing carriers, but passengers pay extra fees for carry-on luggage, choosing their seat and other services.

Frontier launched "The Works," a bundle of services for $49 that includes a carry-on and checked bag, seat assignment, priority boarding and ability to cancel travel at least 24 hours before scheduled departure.

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