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Wichita market not performing well for airline Frontier Airlines to end flights from Wichita to Denver

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, July 16, 2012, at 7:59 p.m.

Frontier Airlines will halt flights between Wichita and Denver beginning Nov. 16, the airline confirmed.

The airline operated two daily flights from Wichita.

“Any time that we leave a market, it’s usually due to underperformance,” said Frontier spokeswoman Lindsey Carpenter. “It’s performing below average for our network.”

The airline will contact with travelers who have booked flights after Nov. 15, Carpenter said. Passengers will be offered an option of a flight on another airline or a refund.

“If they don’t hear from us, they can reach out to our reservations team,” she said.

Without Frontier, United Airlines will be the only airline to fly from Wichita through Denver to western destinations.

United offers five daily flights to Denver.

“We’re very disappointed,” said Valerie Wise, Wichita Mid-Continent Airport’s air service and business development manager. “From what we have seen, the public supported them. They provided great service.”

Since Frontier began service in October 2007 from Wichita, traffic to the top western markets is up 23 percent and fares are down 29 percent, Wise said.

Passengers can expect fares to increase to Denver and to connecting western destinations not served by Allegiant Air from Wichita, she said.

Allegiant operates flights from Wichita to Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Phoenix-Mesa.

Frontier offered low-fare competition through Denver to all major western U.S. cities, including 14 of the top 50 destinations of travelers using Wichita Mid-Continent Airport.

Frontier Airlines’ decision to end service in Wichita had to do with route underperformance during the winter months and issues with aircraft availability, Wise said.

“They want to focus on markets that consistently perform well, she said.

In addition, Republic Airlines is attempting to sell Frontier, Wise said.

Frontier did not seek another year of revenue guarantee money from the state’s Affordable Airfares program, she said. The program was set up by the Kansas Legislature to get low-cost airlines to the state.

Frontier has received $500,000 a year from the program since it arrived in the market.

Frontier’s departure may give Southwest Airlines incentive to begin service from Wichita to western destinations, Wise said.

Southwest merged with AirTran Airways last year and is slowly integrating AirTran markets into Southwest’s system. It plans to make the change in Wichita next year.

“They (Southwest) haven’t announced their routes (from Wichita) yet,” Wise said. But “I’m hoping we get some routes to the west.”

“It certainly opens up more opportunities for them,” she said.

Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com.

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