Local News

Monday, Feb 24 2014 01:13 PM

Frontier Airlines plans Bakersfield-Denver service

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    The William M. Thomas Terminal at Meadows Field.

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BY JAMES BURGER Californian staff writer jburger@bakersfield.com

Meadows Field has landed a new airline and a second connection to Denver International Airport.

The Kern County Airports Department and Frontier Airlines announced the new Denver flight — which will begin May 16 — in side-by-side press releases Monday.

To celebrate the new nonstop flights, Frontier is offering $75 one-way tickets to Denver — as long as flyers buy them by 9 a.m. Wednesday and complete travel between June 13 and Aug. 10.

Frontier will offer flights Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. United Airlines currently offers service to the Colorado capital.

Frontier is a small, Denver-based airline. It was bought in December by the Indigo Partners LLC private equity firm, which plans to convert it to an ultra low-cost carrier similar to Indigo’s Spirit Airlines, according to The Denver Post.

George Hamlin, a transportation consultant and analyst, said Frontier is likely targeting the leisure market with the flights.

He said the move to Bakersfield is a bit of a shot in the dark for the airline but might pay off. It would increase Bakersfield’s connections to the rest of the nation.

An airline that flies “less than five business days a week is aimed at the leisure market,” Hamlin said.

The 138-seat Airbus A319 airliner will be the largest commercial jet with service to Bakersfield, he said, another indication Frontier is focusing on the leisure traveler.

Currently a round-trip ticket for a non-stop flight to Denver in mid-May on United runs between $420 and $450.

Kern County Airports Director Richard Stickland said the new service is an opportunity both for the airport and Bakersfield residents.

For the airport, he said, “it means more enplaned passengers.”

And that means growth and revenue for the struggling airport, which is expected to have $4.2 million in debt to the county of Kern’s main capital projects fund written off Tuesday.

For passengers, it’s a chance to travel more easily.

“It gives them another option and another choice when choosing to fly out of Meadows Field,” he said.

He said the Tuesday and Thursday flights are likely to appeal to business travelers but the Thursday and Sunday flights could attract travelers heading east for fun.

Strickland said it isn’t clear what ticket prices will look like on Frontier. But prices should come in under where the existing flight to Denver is, he said.

In the long term, Strickland said, he hopes to expand Meadow’s offerings further. He said there is demand for more flights out of Meadows Field — 51 percent of local airline travelers fly out of other airports — as long as the price is right.

He said residents need to support the local flights that are available  to show other airlines the airport can support their business.

“Hopefully this opportunity will help us entice other opportunities to come forward,” Strickland said.

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