Frontier expands service

Jul. 4--Denver-based Frontier Airlines made a big announcement regarding expanded air service Tuesday, but it wasn't the news Grand Forks officials have been waiting to hear since they submitted a proposal to bring jet service to the community earlier this year.

Frontier announced it would start offering nonstop service between Denver and three communities Wichita, Kan.; Rapid City, S.D.; and Sioux City, Iowa starting in October.

The three destinations are the first of about nine new markets that will be served by Frontier's new fleet of Bombardier Q400 turboprop aircraft.

The turboprops will be operated by Lynx Aviation, a subsidiary of Frontier.

Tuesday's news isn't exactly the summer announcement Grand Forks airport officials have been waiting for. City leaders were hoping Frontier would announce expanded regional jet service not turboprop service to Grand Forks by the end of June.

According to Steve Johnson, executive director of the Grand Forks Region Airport Authority, a local delegation traveled to Denver about two weeks ago to discuss the community's bid for jet service with Frontier's CEO and other executives.

"We talked about Grand Forks, the potential market for them here. They told us our visit was very timely," Johnson said.

Frontier sent out a request for proposal, or RFP, in October 2006 after ordering 10 new Q400 turboprops and announcing a planned expansion of its regional jet fleet to as many as 20 aircraft.

Grand Forks' proposal outlined more than $600,000 in incentives to reduce startup costs for Frontier and another $15,000 in pledge money from the Grand Forks business community.

City Council president Hal Gershman and Klaus Thiessen, president of the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp., also represented Grand Forks in Denver.

Johnson said Frontier officials seemed interested in returning to the community. The airline offered service to Denver from Grand Forks in the mid-1990s. "They remember when they served Grand Forks in the past," he said. "And they have a positive view of the experience in Grand Forks."

According to Frontier spokesman Joe Hodas, the airline will be making more announcements related to new markets in the future, but the growth in regional jet markets will not be as extensive as the turboprop markets over the next six to nine months.

Hodas said Grand Forks still was under consideration by Frontier, but he did not offer a specific time frame for any future announcements.

Edison reports on business. Reach him at (701) 780-1107; (800) 477-6572, ext. 107; or jedison@gfherald.com

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