Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

AIR TRAVEL: Frontier unlikely to add Grand Forks route

The addition of a new Fargo route for Frontier Airlines is not the best news for Grand Forks. Company spokesman Joe Hodas said that the two appear to be competing airports, so being at one will likely mean the Denver-based airline won't be expand...

The addition of a new Fargo route for Frontier Airlines is not the best news for Grand Forks.

Company spokesman Joe Hodas said that the two appear to be competing airports, so being at one will likely mean the Denver-based airline won't be expanding to the other. "Not to rule anything out, but it's going to be a while before we look in that area again."

Grand Forks International Airport executive director Steve Johnson had been slightly more optimistic. "It doesn't help, but it doesn't absolutely rule us out."

Airport officials aren't sitting on their hands waiting for Frontier, though. They've also been in talks with United Airlines and Allegiant Air.

The new Fargo route is one of eight Frontier announced Thursday.

ADVERTISEMENT

Sweetener not enough

For years, the airport has been seeking a second airline to offset Northwest Airlines' monopoly. Among area travelers, there continues to be grumbling about too few flights scheduled and higher ticket prices compared with Fargo.

Yet, instead of coming here, Frontier chose Fargo, an already competitive market served by Northwest, Delta Air Lines, United and Allegiant.

Hodas had said more than a year ago that his company was looking at population size and demand for travel. In the 2000 census, the Fargo metro area population was 174,400 while the Grand Forks metro area was 97,500. A few years ago, an airport-commissioned study found more than one-fifth of travelers in the local market chose to fly out of Fargo for the better scheduling and cheaper prices, driving down boardings here.

What Grand Forks has going for it is eagerness.

If Frontier ever does decide to expand here, it could save as much as $630,000. That's the amount the airport has offered as an incentive, not in cash but in waived landing fees and terminal rental, and subsidized ground handling equipment and labor.

The trouble is $350,000 of that money is in the form of a federal grant, which the Grand Forks airport has three years to spend. It's now been about a year and a half since the grant was awarded.

Johnson said airport officials are trying to decide if they'll give some of the money to Allegiant for two flights a week.

ADVERTISEMENT

Profit motive

Frontier's goal is to drive more traffic to its hub at Denver International Airport, where it competes against United Airlines and Southwest Airlines.

Calyon Securities airline analyst Raymond Neidl said the move into smaller markets may benefit Frontier if there is enough traffic to sustain operations. "They've got to diversify as much as they can out of Denver," he said. "They are being squeezed on one end by United and the other by Southwest."

Frontier's new chief executive, Sean Menke, said the airline has gotten incentive packages from many cities, but his decisions were based largely on demographics and economic opportunity.

Johnson has known this all along.

"It's a good incentive package, but like I have said all along, the real key is not what we can do to make the first year easier for Frontier," he said back in January when the airport submitted its incentive package. "The question is 'do they believe they can be profitable in Grand Forks? ' "

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reach Tran at (701) 780-1248 or ttran@gfherald.com .

What To Read Next
Nonprofit hospitals are required to provide free or discounted care, also known as charity care; yet eligibility and application requirements vary across hospitals. Could you qualify? We found out.
Crisis pregnancy centers received almost $3 million in taxpayer funds in 2022. Soon, sharing only medically accurate information could be a prerequisite for funding.
The Grand Forks Blue Zones Project, which hopes to make Grand Forks not just a healthier city but a closer community, is hosting an event on Saturday, Jan. 21, at the Empire Arts Center from 3-5 p.m.
A bill being considered by the North Dakota Legislature would require infertility treatment for public employees — a step that could lead to requiring private insurance for the costly treatments.