Delaware will become the only US state without commercial airline service after Frontier withdraws its flights.
Service to New Castle Airport Cut
Frontier is pulling out of New Castle Airport (ILG), Delaware’s only hub for commercial flights. The airline told Delaware Online on Friday that its final flight would be on 6 June 2022, making Delaware the only state without a commercial carrier to serve it.
Frontier spokesperson Jennifer de la Cruz said they were withdrawing because “Sufficient demand did not materialise to support the service,”. Adding:
“We are continually evaluating our routes, and ILG will certainly remain in the consideration set for potential service in the future,”
Frontier is in the midst of a merger with Spirit Airlines, which may open up options for more low-cost travel.
Frontier’s Second Attempt
This is not the first time Frontier has stopped their Delaware service. In 2015, the airline quietly concluded its flights from ILG after two years of service, following cuts and repeated changes to its list of destinations.
In 2020, Frontier announced it would be returning to New Castle Airport, starting with flights to Orlando, Florida, with the potential for more destinations if demand increased. Frontier executive Daniel Shurz was confident that this more cautious approach would be successful, assuring Delawareans that this time would be different from the last:
“I’m telling you that we’re here to stay.”
Since 2015, the company has grown, and operating costs have been lower, making the ILG a potentially profitable option again. Additionally, the company’s business had grown in nearby Philadelphia. However, Shurz warned:
“if we don’t see the right results relatively quickly, we will absolutely pull service.”
Flights were due to begin in May 2020 but got delayed to February 2021 due to Covid. The local authorities invested $2 million in renovations to prepare the airport for commercial service. The initial roster had flights to Orlando three times a week, later pulled back to twice a week due to low demand. Demand has continued to waver, and now, true to their word, Frontier is quickly pulling their service.
The airport saw over 10,000 passengers in its year of service, which entitled it to more funding from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The increased foot traffic upgraded IGL from a “general aviation reliever airport” to a “primary commercial service airport”, increasing its annual federal allotment from $150,000 to over $1 million.
The loss of federal funding and airport fees is a bitter blow for Delawareans. The airport is operated by the Delaware River and Bay Authority (DRBA). Jim Salmon, a spokesperson for the group, said the DRBA is “disappointed” with Frontier’s decision but maintains hope that commercial air service “can and will succeed” at the airport.
In the meantime, residents will have to drive or take Amtrak to Baltimore (a little over an hour’s drive) or Philadelphia (half hours drive) airports for their commercial needs.
Do you think New Castle Airport can succeed as a commercial hub? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!