Frontier, a subsidiary of Indianapolis-based Republic Airways Holdings Inc., will offer three flights a week to and from Denver until Sept. 9, which could lead to more service opportunities for HIA, said Tim Edwards, executive director of the airport’s operator, Susquehanna Area Regional Airport Authority.
“If we get them here and show that the service is successful, then we can look at getting additional services down the road,” he said.
That’s important because HIA is seeking a replacement service for its AirTran Airways flights to Orlando, which will end Aug. 12. AirTran, acquired by Dallas-based Southwest Airlines Co. last year, decided to discontinue the HIA service in January.
Edwards said Frontier isn’t a replacement for AirTran, although the company does serve Orlando from other destinations. HIA still is in talks with airlines for Orlando service, and it’s aiming to have a replacement before AirTran leaves in August. For more on the AirTran story, see the Business Journal’s Friday edition.
Regional business leaders said the Frontier service will be good for the midstate economy, too.
“It gets us West in a hurry,” said Dave Black, president and CEO of the Harrisburg Regional Chamber and Capital Region Economic Development Corp.
For business travelers venturing to the West Coast, Frontier’s service to Denver is one more option, he said. It’s an alternative to crowded hubs such as Atlanta and Chicago where many travelers previously would’ve picked up connecting flights, he said.
“Denver ranks as one of the region’s top 10 destinations and has been for some time,” Edwards said.
There’s also potential for a tourism influx to Central Pennsylvania now that there are direct flights between Denver and HIA, said Mary Smith, president of the Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau.
“Come East, new friends. Come East,” she said during the announcement at the airport in Lower Swatara Township, Dauphin County.
Landing Frontier’s service at HIA was a regional effort, Edwards said. U.S. Rep. Tim Holden, as well as U.S. Sens. Bob Casey Jr. and Pat Toomey, were instrumental in the effort. Holden helped HIA get a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation for a revenue guarantee program that incentivize airlines to serve the airport, he said.
The revenue guarantee program was set up last year and is managed by the Dauphin County Industrial Development Authority.
Republic Airways trades its shares on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol RJET. Southwest trades its shares on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol LUV.