Next to Southwest and American Airlines, in less than six months from initiating Rhode Island service, Frontier Airlines has become the third largest carrier at Green Airport. It promises to get even bigger with direct service to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina beginning May 20.
The new service, making it the 10th destination served by Frontier from Green, was announced Wednesday at a gathering of city and state officials that has become almost routine since Iftikhar Ahmad was named president and CEO by the Rhode Island Airport Corporation.
Ahmad sees opportunity for even greater growth. Following the formal announcement, he said that Green and Boston’s Logan Airport serves a “catchment area” of 7 million people. He said that annual enplanements from the region totals 21 million, meaning an average of three flights per year, per person. Of the 21 million, he said slightly more than 1 million fly out of Green.
“We have an opportunity [to serve a bigger portion of the 21 million],” said Ahmad. To make that happen he said RIAC needs “to convince the airlines to give us more market share.”
He sees airline fares as critical to making that happen.
“Customer behavior is entirely guided by fares,” he said.
Fares go a long way in explaining Frontier’s experience at Green. In December the airlines carried 38,884 passengers, or 11.2 percent of Green’s passenger traffic for the month. Since starting service on Aug. 14 through the end of 2017, Frontier logged 146,075 passengers, making it the 5th largest carrier for the year at Green. In December it was the third largest carrier behind American Airlines and Southwest, which is the largest at Green.
Frontier’s growth isn’t limited to Green either.
“By this summer we’re going to be serving 9 percent of the United States and we are just continuing to grow; the momentum is fabulous,” said Jonathan Freed, director of corporate communications for Frontier Airlines.
“Low fares done right is all about empowering the customer to customize their own travel experience. You can go ala carte and choose the individual products and services you would associate with air travel and choose the individual ones that work for you, or we’ve found what we think and we’re told is the best value in the industry are bundles called ‘the works,’” he said.
Majority leaders and Warwick Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi knows what he can save with Frontier. He’s used the airlines to fly to Florida and he vouched for the low fares and service.
“You guys are delivering more flights and that’s good for the city and that’s good for the state,” he said.
Freed’s announcement that Frontier has placed an order for 200 Airbuses caught the attention of Shekarchi, Mayor Scott Avedisian and RIAC chair Jonathan Savage, who all suggested that could translate into even more service for Green.
Freed could not offer a delivery schedule for the new aircraft, but said he believes it is the single largest order placed with Airbus. Currently the airline, based in Denver, has a fleet of 70 aircraft. Freed said the new aircraft would be delivered over a period of years.
Freed could not answer what role RIAC incentives played in introducing the newest destination.
Ahmad said Frontier is being provided the same incentive as other airlines of up to $200,000 for a new destination. He said the money is not a revenue guarantee, as is offered at other airports, but rather a marketing commitment. He explained the money is earmarked for promoting the Green flights and in that manner, “we are helping them to help us.”
Freed said what the Frontier package allows, “you to choose any seat on the aircraft, including those extra room seats up at the front – if it’s available you can have it. You get a checked bag and a carry-on bag, you have no change fees and it’s completely refundable, including the costs of the works. It starts at $59 depending on the length of the flight,” he said.
“As a customer you get to decide – you have the power,” he said.
Frontier Airlines offers more nonstop service than any other airline operating out of T.F. Green and the addition of this new route to Myrtle Beach, S.C. is a first for the airport, Ahmad said.
Destinations being served or to be served by the airlines are: