Rhode Islanders love bargains, and they will be getting another one thanks to Frontier Airlines that announced Wednesday they would bring their discount fares to Green Airport with flights to Orlando and Denver starting Aug. 14. The airline is offering introductory fares until May 26 of $39 one way to Orlando and $69 to Denver.
Low cost fares are what made Green the fastest growing airport in the country in the late 1990s when Southwest Airlines started operations from the newly opened Sundlun Terminal. Southwest remains the airport’s dominant carrier today, but since 2005, when passenger traffic topped 5.7 million, Green has sought to recover from sagging passenger traffic that totaled 3.6 million for 2016.
Wednesday’s news comes on the heels of the February announcement that Norwegian Airlines would commence 18 weekly flights between Ireland, Scotland and Norway starting next month. Like Frontier, Norwegian is a low cost carrier.
More flights and more low cost flights, meaning more people using Green Airport, frequenting Rhode Island businesses and creating more Ocean State jobs is what Iftikar Ahmad, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation, is all about.
“Planes are important,” he said prior to a press conference that had been billed as providing a surprise, “but results are more important.”
Indeed, the announcement that Frontier would introduce its service to New England at Green was kept quiet. The Mary Brennan Room at the terminal was packed with news media as well as representatives from the hospitality industry.
There was no doubt that low cost – like bargain – was the theme of the announcement.
Daniel Shurz, Senior Vice President – Commercial for Frontier, said the airline does “low fares right.” He noted customers are provided a variety of options or can bundle and “buy the works.” He said Frontier offers the “best value refundable fare in the industry.”
Flying Airbus A320s with 186 seats, Frontier will offer one flight daily to Orlando and Denver. The Orlando flight departs at 7:59 p.m. and the Denver flight leaves at 11 a.m. The return flight from Orlando arrives at 10:10 a.m. The return Denver flight is scheduled to get in at 7:09 p.m.
Green’s extended 8,700-foot runway is to be completed and in use for takeoffs by Aug. 15. It is to be fully operational with landing control systems by later in the year.
Gov. Gina Raimondo called the announcement “further evidence that Rhode Island has momentum, we’re on the move.” With the Norwegian announcement, she said, “Rhode Island has two more arrows in its quiver.”
Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi, who is the House Majority Leader, hailed the news as indication that the state’s economy is improving.
“We’re not done,” he vowed.
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Michael McCaffrey called the development “a great thing for Warwick.” He observed it would bring more people to the state and to city businesses.
It was a theme Mayor Scott Avedisian picked up on. He visited the D’Ambra property on Jefferson Boulevard that morning to view construction of the Hyatt Place Hotel, noting it would be the city’s 17th hotel. He said with all the new traffic to be generated he would be looking for the site of the 18th hotel. Avedisian said RIAC has done “incredible things in the last year.” He urged people to purchase tickets because that is what will keep airlines here.
It was a message repeated by RIAC board chairman Jonathan Savage.
“Let’s talk this up,” he said, “The more we use it, the more we’ll get.”
Shurz credited Green Airport with being the reason why the airlines picked Rhode Island. He said it is a “well run airport” that allows them to offer low fares.