Frontier Airlines today announced it will add nonstop service from its primary hub in Denver to Missoula beginning June 13.
“We are excited to bring Frontier’s convenient and affordable service to residents in the Missoula area,” said Daniel Shurz, Frontier’s senior vice president, commercial. “Travelers will enjoy our ultra-low fares and have more options as they book their summer travel at FlyFrontier.com.”
Frontier will run 4 round-trip flights per week. Flights to Missoula from Denver will be on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Flights to Denver from Missoula will be on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
Another difference between Frontier and its competitors is a much larger aircraft -- 132 seats. During a press conference Monday morning Frontier scheduling and planning director Bob Westgate cited leg room as a comfort feature of the larger aircraft.
Westgate says Frontier is committed to Missoula for the long haul and to help bring affordable air travel to Missoula. He described the current last-minute airfares into the Garden City as "like going to London."
If the new service opens with a bang, Frontier may look to expand their service in Missoula in the summer of 2015. "You need to walk before you can run" Westgate says, "so let's ensure that what we have here in the summer will be very successful. Then we can perhaps build on that."
Almost all speakers and guests at today's announcement noted the effect that a new carrier would have on other airlines prices. It's a basic economic principle. More competition in a market often leads to lower prices.
Alps Corporation President and CEO David Bell is welcoming the new service.
"We're a national lawyers insurance malpractice company with offices in the Midwest and on the East Coast, but we're headquartered here...on any given day we have multiple people in the air, so the entrance of a new carrier into this market is big news......on average it's driven down fares as much as thirty percent...and time will tell what happens in the Missoula market but Frontier has destination routes that marry up with both business and recreational travel."
Low fares of $65 one way are available for the new flights until Wednesday on Frontier's website.
NBC Montana got reactions from folks around Missoula about the new direct flights.
Missoula Mayor John Engen tells NBC Montana that he hopes the increased competition will bring fares down overall. He hopes that would result in more businesses relocating to Missoula.
“Airfares have been a deal breaker,” said Engen.
Engen spoke of one company official discussing the difficulties of high ticket prices with him.
"A company in California very interested in relocating to Missoula said, 'I think we've got everything else figured out, but the airfares and I wish you could do something about those.’"
Folks at local businesses in downtown Missoula were happy to hear the news as well.
Kim Richardson owns Bhavana, a home interior store. She said her business requires her to travel, and having more options would be a help.
“We have to go to Atlanta and New York and these places often, and it just seems like there's too many legs to hit,” said Richardson.
Rashid Abdel Ghafur, a cook at Doc’s Sandwich Shop, tells NBC Montana the shop gets a fair amount of international tourists as customers over the summer, and they may appreciate the added options.
“We need more connecting flights if we're going to be flying internationally,” said Ghafur.
Meanwhile, NBC Montana reached out to United Airlines to get reaction to the increased competition. A media rep told NBC Montana that United has competed with Frontier successfully in a number of markets.
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