Fron­tier re­turns to LR’s air­port

Flights to Den­ver to start in spring

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - BUSINESS & FARM - NOEL OMAN

Fron­tier Air­lines, the ul­tra-low-cost car­rier, an­nounced an am­bi­tious ex­pan­sion Tues­day, adding 21 new des­ti­na­tions from its Den­ver hub, in­clud­ing a re­turn to Bill and Hil­lary Clin­ton Na­tional Air­port/ Adams Field.

Daily ser­vice be­tween Den­ver In­ter­na­tional Air­port and Clin­ton Na­tional won’t be­gin un­til April, but the an­nounce­ment off­set last week’s re­port that an­other low-cost car­rier, GLO Air­lines, was sus­pend­ing ser­vice to Lit­tle Rock and five other des­ti­na­tions it serves from New Or­leans.

Fron­tier’s de­ci­sion also will give the mar­ket more op­tions to fly west. Clin­ton Na­tional al­ready of­fers di­rect ser­vice to Phoenix and Las Ve­gas via South­west Air­lines, Den­ver via United Air­lines and Los An­ge­les via Al­le­giant Air, the last on a sea­sonal ba­sis.

“We would like to see more flights west,” said Ron Mathieu, Clin­ton Na­tional’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor.

The an­nounce­ment comes as pas­sen­ger traf­fic is ris­ing at the state’s largest air­port. Last year was the first time since 2012 that Clin­ton Na­tional saw pas­sen­ger traf­fic rise, in­creas­ing less than 0.5 per­cent.

Im­prove­ment has con­tin­ued into the new year.

Pas­sen­ger traf­fic through June 30 rose 2.1 per­cent com­pared with the first six months of 2016, to 991,620.

Fron­tier is be­gin­ning ser­vice at Clin­ton Na­tional for the third time. It ini­tially en­tered the mar­ket in 2004 and left in 2008. It re­turned in 2011 and re­mained un­til May 2014.

Mathieu said he be­lieves Fron­tier will find a bet­ter fit at the air­port as an ul­tra-low­cost car­rier. Al­le­giant Air, an­other ul­tra-low-cost car­rier, has proved to be a pop­u­lar niche op­tion for Clin­ton Na­tional pas­sen­gers.

Ul­tra- low- cost air­lines typ­i­cally of­fer fewer com­forts to go along with the lower fares when com­pared with reg­u­lar air­lines, such as Amer­i­can Air­lines and Delta Air Lines, which also serve Clin­ton Na­tional. To off­set low fares, the no-frills car­ri­ers of­ten charge ex­tra for food, pri­or­ity board­ing, seat se­lec­tion and bag­gage.

Al­le­giant Air has car­ried 18,553 Clin­ton Na­tional pas­sen­gers through June 30, a 43.3 per­cent jump over the 12,947 pas­sen­gers it car­ried in the first six months of 2016.

“I think our mar­ket is ac­cus­tomed and has ad­justed to the ul­tra-low-cost car­rier,” Mathieu said. “Our cus­tomers do a re­ally good job of keep­ing Al­le­giant in town.”

Mathieu said he also was taken aback at the feed­back he has re­ceived over the sus­pen­sion of GLO ser­vice, which the air­line an­nounced last week in or­der, it said, to find a new op­er­a­tor of its air­craft.

“I have heard more about GLO from my neigh­bors and fel­low cit­i­zens than I ever an­tic­i­pated,” he said.

Fron­tier will be the sev­enth air­line to pro­vide ser­vice at Clin­ton Na­tional, as­sum­ing GLO air­lines re­mains.

The ex­pan­sion Fron­tier an­nounced is a more than 30 per­cent in­crease in the cities it serves, to 82. Of the 21 new cities, tick­ets went on sale in eight cities Tues­day. The air­line also an­nounced 85 new routes, in­clud­ing 49 that went on sale Tues­day.

Non­stop routes will nearly dou­ble to 314 when the ex­pan­sion is fully rolled out next sum­mer, the air­line said. The air­line will be able to reach 90 per­cent of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion by then.

“Cus­tomers will ben­e­fit not only from the broad new se­lec­tion of non­stop routes, but our grow­ing net­work will pro­vide more than 1,000 new con­nect­ing route op­tions,” Barry Bif­fle, Fron­tier’s pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, said in a state­ment. “By tak­ing ad­van­tage of our nat­u­ral share of con­nect­ing pas­sen­gers, we can of­fer our low fares to even more of Amer­ica.”

The Fron­tier flight sched­ule be­tween Lit­tle Rock and Den­ver hasn’t been fi­nal­ized, which means peo­ple are un­able to book flights from Clin­ton Na­tional yet, said Shane Carter, the air­port spokesman.

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