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Frontier postpones Delaware service ‘indefinitely’

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Frontier Airlines has postponed its return to the New Castle Airport and will revisit the decision this fall. | PHOTO COURTESY OF FRONTIER AIRLINES

NEW CASTLE – Frontier Airlines has decided not to launch service to and from New Castle County this May with airport officials saying they expect the airline to revisit the decision this fall.

Delaware River and Bay Authority Deputy Executive Director Stephen D. Williams confirmed that the airline has postponed its return “indefinitely,” but declined to answer any other questions concerning the decision.

The airline had planned to launch its return on May 14, starting with three low-cost flights per week to Orlando. But speculation has risen in recent weeks about the future of the service given the arrival of coronavirus-related restrictions.

Williams was quoted in The News Journal last week that the latest update he had received was a delay to June 25. Frontier Airlines has not returned repeated requests for comment from Delaware Business Times.

“Obviously, this is an extremely challenging economic time for many Delaware families and for businesses large and small,” said Jonathan Starkey, spokesman for Gov. John Carney. “It’s not a time for travel. We understand Frontier’s decisioni and hope to resume discussions with them once we gt through this challenging time.”

“We are disappointed, but laser-focused on both keeping our community safe and working together to get through this challenging time,” said New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer in a statement regarding the news of Frontier’s postponement.

Officials said during a late January press conference that New Castle’s airport (ILG) offers low-cost parking and a quick walk across the tarmac to awaiting airplanes for customers looking to avoid the hustle and bustle of large airports like nearby Philadelphia International Airport (PHL).

Daniel Shurz, senior vice president of commercial operations for Frontier Airlines, said in January that the airline’s decision to return to the market it left five years ago included its passenger growth in the Philadelphia market; a 20% decrease in costs since 2015; and data that indicates a strong customer base in Delaware based on its passengers’ residential zip codes. Shurz said Frontier did not receive any incentives from state or local sources.

But in an interview after the press conference, Shurz seemed thrown off by a question about whether Frontier saw its return as a “pilot” initiative.

“We want it to succeed,” he said. “As an airline, if we don’t see the right results relatively quickly, we absolutely pull service. But this is not a test. We think this is the right way to come back into the market. Last time, we started with a relatively large number of destinations. We learned from that and have a better sense of what will work.”

This is a developing story that will be updated as additional information becomes available.

By Peter Osborne

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