Frontier flying LVIA coop
Nov 17, 2012 (The Morning Call (Menafn - Allentown - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --Frontier Airlines has announced it will suspend all of its flights from Lehigh Valley International Airport beginning in April.
Frontier's move is the latest in a year of bad news for the struggling LVIA, and comes even as airport officials were expecting Frontier to increase its flights and add routes.
"Unfortunately, increasing fuel and other operating costs at Lehigh Valley International Airport have made it impossible to provide the low fares customers demand," said Greg Aretakis, Frontier's vice president. "Ultimately, we made the business decision to suspend our service."
Frontier, which only arrived at the airport in May, will continue its current flights until April 7, Aretakis said.
While the rising cost of jet fuel has caused a drag on regional air carriers nationwide, LVIA's executive director, Charles Everett Jr., disputed that airport fees helped push Frontier away. Everett said as an incentive to keep Frontier, LVIA waived most of its landing fees and charged only a modest 225 per flight fee for which Frontier gets use of LVIA workers for ground control and ticket sales.
Whatever the reason, it's yet another blow to an airport that has taken too many this year. In August, it lost one of its most popular carriers, AirTran Airways, because the company merged with Southwest Airlines. As a result, its traffic is projected to be down 20 percent, potentially dropping below 700,000 passengers for the first time in more than two decades.
"We have not had a lot of good news this year, but we can't use that as an excuse to fail," said Tony Iannelli, chairman of the Lehigh Northampton Airport Authority. "We need to find a way to produce more flights and more revenue, somehow."
Though the loss of Frontier means only four fewer flights to Orlando per week, it's particularly painful because the airport was projecting it to increase its nonstop flights to Orlando and it began negotiating a new route to Denver.
"We thought this was the promising start of a long-term relationship," Everett said. "They just met a few weeks ago with our air service committee to discuss Denver. For us, this comes out of nowhere."
Everett said LVIA would try to get its other air carriers to pick up the Frontier routes to Orlando International.
For now, the airport is in cutting mode. It will pass a 2013 budget next month that will include staff cuts of 10 percent, with the elimination of a dozen jobs. And those numbers could be getting worse.
"In light of this, we'll have to take a fresh look at the budget and determine if more cuts have to be made," Everett said.
Everett did say the airport is trying to grow revenues from restaurant and retail sales at the airport, fees from car rental companies and sales of airport advertising space. In addition, it has hired a company to begin marketing its surplus lands for development.
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