Can Frontier succeed in Trenton?

Frontier Airlines will have 10 routes from Trenton-Mercer airport from April – barely six months since it began service to the airfield.

The Denver-based low cost carrier began flights to Orlando in November 2012, is adding flights to Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, New Orleans and Tampa later this month and in February, and announced flights to Atlanta, Chicago Midway, Columbus, Detroit and Raleigh-Durham from April on 7 January.

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Frontier is the latest a long line of attempted commercial operations at Trenton. These include Eastwind Airlines in the 1990s, Shuttle America (when it operated as an independent airline) in the late 1990s and early 2000s then later as US Airways Express, Delta Connection in 2006 and 2007, and Boston-Maine Airways until 2008

The airline’s build up in Trenton is curious. While it is an established carrier out west, it lacks a significant presence on the east coast and only has four weekly flights to Philadelphia (it ended daily flights to Denver this month) and none to Newark (flights ended in April 2012) – the two airports that Trenton competes with.

Frontier Airlines

Eastwind and Shuttle America as start-ups were unable to make the airport work, neither were the operations by Delta Connection and US Airways Express - mainline carriers with well-established brands and large frequent flier bases in the region. And Frontier is not even trying Boston, the one route that everyone else has flown.

Frontier, like its predecessors, is likely hoping that low fares can attract travellers who would otherwise drive the more than an hour to either Newark or Philadelphia. However, it must also anticipate drawing traffic from both metro areas and the surrounding region – which had a combined population of more than 10 million in 2011 – as the Trenton-Ewing, New Jersey, metropolitan area only had 367,063 people at the end of 2011, according to the US Census.

The airline did not respond to questions regarding its service to Trenton.

If Trenton fails to draw the crowds that Frontier anticipates, flights would likely be pulled out as quickly as they went in but, if the service succeeds, you can bet ultra low-cost carriers Allegiant Air and Spirit Airlines will not be far behind.

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