Frontier Launches Flights from Trenton to Orlando – Why?

By | August 17, 2012

Frontier has announced it will be launching service from Trenton, New Jersey to Orlando International Airport in Florida.

Frontier Airlines DEN to BNA

The service will be twice weekly, on Monday and Friday, and operated using A319 aircraft. Service will begin November 16th.

Trenton-Mercer Airport is a bit of an odd place for Frontier to be trying to fly. They are not big in the Northeast, but have been growing in Orlando. They are a better known brand in the west, especially having dismantled their presence in the midwest, formerly routes operated by Midwest Airlines, but even there they are having trouble.

By comparison, in the last thirty years, many airlines have tried and failed to make things work at the airport. Currently, Streamline Airways is the sole carrier serving the airport. They began in April after a three year period with no commercial service, and the only route they operate is Trenton to Hanscom Field in Bedford, Massachusetts(12 miles outside of Boston). The route is served with thirty-seat Embraer 120 turboprops operated by Charter Air Transport Inc, their parent company, as public charters. They cater mostly to business travelers.

Frontier would be targeting leisure travelers in this market, a technique that has worked well for Allegiant Airlines. The Cranky Flier, commenting on Frontier’s recent route decisions, pointed out that the airline appears to be looking at growth in three areas:

  • Sun Destinations – Routes with heavy leisure traffic that can be supported a few times a week.
  • Smaller Cities – With Southwest slowly absorbing AirTran, Frontier has been taking advantage of service to smaller cities. It has also made some decisions to serve routes outside of its normally expected areas
  • Building Demand Out from its Hub to places with limited service/high fares
All these fit into a Trenton to Orlando decision. It’s a airport with a large catchment area, adequate facilities, lower costs, and an alternate to Philadelphia and Newark airports for people in the area. Frontier can afford to be competitive there.

This may be the new reality of low-cost travel, because face it, many of the carriers we might have called low-cost…JetBlue, Southwest, etc., may not be the legacy carriers, but these are not the markets we expect to see them in. This country pivoted to a frequent daily service model, because of lucrative business travel. But there is a sustainable market for route planning on a weekly scale. Unlike Allegiant, Frontier does have a relationship with other carriers.

We see the next stage for some of these weekly routes is for someone to offer them to destinations with not only their own draw, but with connections to other carriers. It might look a lot like some of the routes we had prior to deregulation, but with a profitable business model.