As it tries to reorganize in the face of bankruptcy, Frontier Airlines announced Wednesday that will pull out of Grand Junction Regional Airport permanently.
On May 1, 2008, the first Frontier flight to the Grand Valley landed at Grand Junction Regional Airport. On September 14, 2009, the last one will take off.
"We were so delighted about the increased capacity," said Barbara Bowman, Division Manager of the Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau. "However, we recognize in this particular economic climate that travel might not be as great as it was."
When Frontier launched, it became the second airline to fly passengers between Grand Junction and Denver, carrying them over the mountains four times each day.
"We doubled the number of seats overnight," said Rex Tippetts, Director of Grand Junction Regional Airport. "With that type of growth it was hard to fill all those seats."
Airport officials say Frontier quickly realized that as well, dropping the number of daily flights from four to three. But even then, things didn't improve.
"They've been running a thirty-nine percent load factor for the last six months where most of the airlines are in the seventies and eighties," said Tippetts.
Officials with Frontier tell 11 News that ultimately, Grand Junction flights did not put up the kind of numbers they were hoping for, and with a limited number of aircraft, they felt there were better opportunities to make money elsewhere.
"It really hasn't been a big surprise," said Tippetts.
Airport officials say pullout means 240 less seats to Denver each day. But they say considering the airport will still connect to six hubs and United Airlines carries three times the number of passengers to Denver that Frontier does, the impact won't be great.
"Other things could have happened that we'd be more concerned about," said Tippetts.
The Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau says the impact on tourism won't be much either, because local studies have indicated people on business trips, not vacation, use the airport the most.
"We are primariliy a drive market, so our lesiure tourism comes primarily by car," said Bowman.
But local travel agents say the pullout could leave some kind of mark on consumers, in that the addition of Frontier in 2008 made for more competitive rates.
"Frontier certainly offered great low fares to get out of Grand Junction, which we all desperately needed" said Ron Lindsay, a travel agent with First Class Travel. "With them leaving, will we get those with the other airlines?"
Ultimately, all agree it's unfortunate Frontier is leaving, but say life will most certainly go on.
"Yeah it's sad," said Lindsay. "But it's business."
Grand Junction Regional Airport says it has no plans to look for a new airline to replace Frontier. Instead, officials say they plan to work with their current airlines to receive additional service.
Frontier officials say it's too early to tell what will happen to their Grand Junction employees, but for now the company will try to accomodate them if they choose to stay on. They say the company has also decided to pull out of the airport in El Paso, Texas.
Airport officials say if you have booked a Frontier flight out of Grand Junction that departs later than September 14, you should call the airline at 1-800-432-1359.
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