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Frontier pulling out of Aspen

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Janet Urquhart Aspen Times file
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ASPEN – Frontier Airlines will end service between Denver and Aspen at the close of the ski season in mid-April, leaving only service by United Express during the resort’s spring offseason.

American Eagle, which entered the Aspen market in December and will serve the resort through the winter, also will serve Aspen during the summer months.

Frontier’s decision to pull out of Aspen comes with its announcement on Friday that it will suspend all operations on the Q400, the turboprop that Frontier uses for its Aspen-Denver connection, effective April 16.

“For the time being, they just don’t feel that they have an aircraft that is economical and feasible to serve Aspen,” said Bill Tomcich, president of reservations agency Stay Aspen Snowmass and the resort’s liaison to the airline industry.

What will happen to the handful of Q400s remaining in Frontier’s fleet was unclear Friday, but they’re only needed for the Aspen service. Though Frontier uses them for connections to Durango and Colorado Springs as well, they have other aircraft that can fly into those markets, Tomcich said.

This isn’t the first time Frontier has announced it would pull out of the Aspen market. In 2010, Frontier owner Republic Airlines announced in July that the Q400s were to be phased out and Frontier was to end service to Aspen at the end of September. A lease arrangement for the turboprops, however, fell through, and Frontier continued to serve Aspen without interruption.

“It certainly is better that we know now, in advance of next ski season,” Tomcich said, predicting the Aspen market will become more attractive not only for United and American, but to other prospective carriers as well.

This week’s announcement didn’t come as a big surprise, Tomcich added.

“We’ve kind of suspected it all along based on the fact that they’ve never published a full schedule for the summer,” he said.

Anyone who booked a flight on the single daily connection between Aspen and Denver offered on Frontier after April 15 will be accommodated on United, Tomcich said.

Frontier launched its Aspen service in 2008, offering daily connections to Denver, and found it to be a profitable market. Maintaining the small fleet of Q400s just to serve Aspen, however, apparently didn’t make sense in the long term.

Frontier recently announced it was moving its headquarters back to Denver; it had been based in Indianapolis. Republic bought the airline out of bankruptcy protection in 2009 and merged it with Midwest Airlines, based in Milwaukee. Frontier’s main hubs are Denver and Milwaukee.

Other Frontier service reductions were announced this week, along with the suspension of its Aspen route, but the airline has added routes, as well. As a result of the changes, its daily departures out of Denver will increase from 139 to 149.

janet@aspentimes.com


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