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GFK looks at second airline

The Grand Forks Regional Airport Authority is asking local businesses how much they would support Frontier Airlines if it came to town, an effort to improve the airport's bid to attract a second carrier.

The Grand Forks Regional Airport Authority is asking local businesses how much they would support Frontier Airlines if it came to town, an effort to improve the airport's bid to attract a second carrier.

The authority sent letters to about 950 businesses asking if they'd support the airline with a financial pledge or through buying tickets in the future.

Steve Johnson, executive director of the airport authority, said a task force made up of the airport authority, the city of Grand Forks, Grand Forks County and GFK Flight Support will use responses to the letter later this month when it files a proposal to bring Denver-based Frontier back to Grand Forks.

"What the task force's intent was is to be able to put some additional information into our proposal," Johnson said.

The letter asks businesses to complete a short questionnaire and return it to the airport authority by Friday. Johnson said about 125 businesses have responded.

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The form asks whether the organization supports bringing Frontier to Grand Forks, how many tickets it might buy from Frontier and whether it would consider a financial pledge to keep the airline in the community on a long-term basis.

Johnson said the support of the business community is important because some businesses require a lot of travel.

"It's not just the airport and government that want Frontier to begin serving the community," he said. "If you think about it, the government entities don't buy that many tickets."

While the majority of the proposal includes incentives funded by a $350,000 federal grant, Johnson hopes the information from the business community will set Grand Forks apart from other communities interested in Frontier.

"It's kind of the icing on the cake for our proposal to Frontier," he said.

Johnson said the airline is looking to expand into new markets and has approached 40 to 50 communities to solicit proposals. He added that with recent struggles in the airline industry, Grand Forks has a unique opportunity to expand its air service.

"We haven't had any real strong opportunities to solicit additional airlines for quite a while," Johnson said.

Frontier is expected to make a decision on the proposals by the end of June. The airline currently has a fleet of 55 aircraft and serves a variety of communities in the United States, Mexico and Canada.

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The company started in July 1994 with service between Denver and Fargo, Grand Forks, Bismarck and Minot. Although Frontier has expanded since, it no longer serves any North Dakota cities.

A copy of the airport authority's questionnaire is available online at www.gfkairport.com .

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

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