Frontier out of time?
October 10, 2007
ASPEN ” Frontier Airlines is losing its battle with the clock to start service this winter in ski resort markets like Aspen.
A company spokesman conceded last weekend that Frontier might not have enough time to establish its new low-cost carrier, Lynx Aviation, for the ski season.
“It doesn’t seem likely that we will have the opportunity to sell tickets for this winter,” said Frontier spokesman Joe Hodas.
Frontier is still seeking operating authority from the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation. It cannot market its new service or sell tickets until those approvals are granted.
Frontier hoped to already have service started on its low-cost subsidiary between Denver and markets such as Rapid City, S.D., Sioux City, Iowa, and Wichita, Kan. It intended to begin service between Denver and some mountain resort markets later in December. Although Frontier hasn’t announced the mountain destinations it selected, Aspen was widely expected to be one of them.
The business community offered $100,000 cash as a financial incentive to Frontier for marketing.
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Information Lynx filed last month with the Department of Transportation indicates the air carrier anticipated having the approvals in hand by now.
“As a result of Federal Aviation Administration reviews and workload, Lynx will not be in a position to operate flights as originally planned,” said a letter from the airline to the federal agency.
Meanwhile, the clock is ticking in vacation destinations like Aspen. Some visitors already are booking their trips. Many visitors are obviously unaware that Frontier’s new service might be an option. Others who know might not want to gamble that Lynx will be able to fly.
Bill Tomcich, president of the central bookings agency Stay Aspen Snowmass, remains hopeful that Frontier’s Lynx service could start by February. He stressed that it was strictly his opinion, not information he has heard from Frontier officials.
Tomcich acknowledged that tourist accommodations in Aspen/Snowmass are nearly booked around Christmas and New Year’s. Even if Frontier’s approval came in time for the carrier to begin service by the end of December, passengers have likely already made travel plans.
However, the booking period is still going strong for the last half of ski season, Tomcich said. If Frontier is able to start service by the end of January, there will be plenty of travelers eager to fly with the air carrier.
“There’s plenty of time to sell those flights,” Tomcich said.
The Aspen Skiing Co. is poised to spread the word about those flights. When the November editions of Outside and Ski magazines hit the stands in mid-October, they will include a four-page, 5-by-7-inch insert by the Skico. The information will heavily promote the closeness of the airport to the slopes and highlight the airline service. An asterisk accompanying information about Frontier will explain that the service is contingent on FAA approval.
The Skico’s printed vacation planner used by travel planners also notes the possibility of Frontier service this ski season.
The Skico is also ready to launch a new website which touts the traveling options ” http://www.flyaspensnowmass.com.
If Frontier wants to start service this winter, Pitkin County will be able to accommodate it with space at the airport terminal, regardless of whether it is at the start or middle of the ski season, said Jim Elwood, director of aviation.
Like Tomcich, Elwood remains optimistic about new service this winter. “I haven’t given up on the ski season,” he said.
Even if Lynx cannot acquire approvals, establish the new mountain markets and start selling tickets in time for this winter, Tomcich said he believes it is just a matter of time before the carrier serves Aspen.
“I’m certain it’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when,” he said.
Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.