February 26, 2014

Frontier Airlines Thriving At Trenton/Mercer Airport

In November of 2012, there were no commercial airplanes flying in and out of Trenton/Mercer Airport. By June of this year, the small airfield off Interstate 95 in Ewing Township will be boasting 73 flights each week to destinations ranging from St. Augustine, Florida to St. Louis, Missouri.

This unprecedented growth was the focus of a February 19 talk at The Nassau Club by Daniel Shurz, senior vice president at Frontier Airlines. The carrier took over the terminal 15 months ago and turned it into a viable alternative to Philadelphia and Newark airports. Mr. Shurz, who spoke at a breakfast held by the Chamber of Commerce of the Princeton Area, announced that the airline will add service to St. Louis, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis in June.

“We love that this is an old, cheap airport,” he said. “That keeps the fares low. And we’ve kept the fares low because we have a great partner in Mercer County.”

Mr. Shurz said that more than 2.5 million people live closer to Trenton/Mercer than any other airport offering commercial service. Newark and Philadelphia are plagued by delays, making the Ewing airport a favorable option. Unlike other airports of its size, Trenton/Mercer has a runway long enough to accommodate the 138-seat Airbus 319 aircrafts operated by 20-year-old, Denver-based Frontier.

While other commercial airlines have tried to make a go of service at the airfield in the past, none were able to succeed. “The last one was Eastwind in 1995. They picked a good airport, they just didn’t know what they were doing,” said Mr. Shurz.

Last fall, Trenton/Mercer was closed for two months during a mutli-million dollar overhaul financed largely through federal grants. The waiting area was enlarged, a new baggage claim facility was added, and parking lots were expanded. Formerly free, parking now costs $8 a day.

Most Princeton area residents were unfamiliar with Frontier before its arrival in New Jersey. “We knew coming in that you’d never heard of us,” Mr. Shurz said. “Most people didn’t even know the airport was there. But we’re doing less advertising now, because we don’t need to. In January, not historically the best month, we filled 91.5 percent of our seats out of Trenton.”

Frontier’s Denver home is “a great place to put an airline,” Mr. Shurz said, “because we’re hundreds of miles from anywhere. We needed to find a way to diversify that airline. Trenton is the first time we’ve diversified organically and we’ve found something that works really well.”

With its expansion to St. Louis, Minneapolis, and Milwaukee, Frontier will have non-stop service to 17 destinations: Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago-Midway, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Indianapolis, Nashville, Orlando, Raleigh-Durham, St. Augustine, and Tampa.

“We’re attracting customers who have to pay with their own money,” Mr. Shurz said. “There are a lot more leisure customers than you might think.”

Asked whether Frontier flights are included on discount websites like Priceline, Mr. Shurz said “There is only one website you need to know: Flyfrontier.com. You get certain benefits when you book through our website, and you get smoking hot fares.”

Frontier will host two flight attendant recruiting seminars on March 7 and 8 at Mercer County Community College in West Windsor. Participants must be willing to relocate, hold a current passport, and be willing to spend the entire day at the event. RSVP via email at FAcareers@flyfrontier.com.