Frontier Airlines will not resume its Durango to Denver route this summer, leaving United Airlines as the only carrier taking local passengers to Denver, an airport official said Friday.
“While we’re disappointed in Frontier’s announcement of cancellation for this summer, we’re pleased to have recently secured a third American Airlines flight from Dallas that will provide more flight time choices for locals and visitors and increase flight market connecting options,” said Kip Turner, director of aviation for Durango-La Plata County Airport, in a news release.
The move by Frontier, which has laid off workers in Denver and canceled routes throughout its service area in recent months, comes at an awkward time. Some public officials are pushing to overhaul the airport’s terminal building at a cost of $80 million or more.
Durango City Council will discuss the airport at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Durango Public Library. County commissioners will hold their own meeting from 2 to 4 p.m. March 3 at the La Plata County Courthouse.
Despite Frontier ending its route, Turner said the Durango airport will offer 7 percent more seats this summer than last. That’s because of an additional American Airlines flight to Dallas and more capacity on US Airways’ route to Phoenix and United’s Denver flights.
Frontier most recently operated the Durango route in October. Before Friday’s announcement, Frontier had planned flights to Durango only three days per week during summer, when the airport attracts heavy tourist traffic. The airline’s passenger load was significantly lower than that of United’s daily route to Denver.
Frontier Airlines did not immediately respond to a phone call and email message requesting comment after business hours Friday.
After The Durango Herald reported the news on Twitter, Frontier replied: “Routes change all the time.”
Frontier has slashed its workforce in Denver and cut routes to small cities such as Bakersfield, California, and Eugene, Oregon.
“We were told by Frontier the cancellations had nothing to do with Durango and our performance on these flights, which they said was strong,” Turner said. “Frontier also noted that they had aircraft limitations, and with their other air service obligations, they just didn’t have the aircraft currently to fly to Durango this summer.”
Turner added, “They have certainly left open the door to coming back should their aircraft resources change.”
Some local officials have said Frontier’s low-cost model benefited other customers by keeping ticket prices low.
Mayor Sweetie Marbury said she hadn’t counted on Frontier since it reduced its schedule.
“I never had much faith in Frontier when I heard them talk about the three-day-a-week (schedule),” she said Friday.
Marbury said she was unsure how Frontier’s cancellation would affect the airport debate.
“This will be up to the voters,” she said. “I’m not a supporter of a brand-new airport. It’s financially too expensive. Yes, we need to do some improvements, but I do not support building a new airport from the ground up.”
Turned said efforts continue to woo additional flights. Business leaders have long pined for direct flights to destinations such as Houston and Chicago.
“We regularly converse with all the airlines about air-service capacity,” Turner said. “We will include Frontier’s decision in these conversations as it could influence the capacity decisions of American, United and US Airways, possibly leading to more flights or larger aircraft from some or all of these carriers. We had very high flight load factors last summer which we feel justify an even larger capacity increase than our current 7 percent (projected growth) at Durango this summer, and we’re doing everything we can to acquire more flights and air seats.“
Herald Staff Writer Mary Shinn contributed to this report.