Photo | Lagniappe
Passengers go through the security checkpoint at the new commercial airport terminal at the Brookley Aeroplex.
Mobile’s Downtown Airport at the Brookley aeroplex officially opened Wednesday, May 1 with the departure of its first Frontier Airlines flight to Chicago.
Mayor Sandy Stimpson, who was a passenger on the 2 p.m. flight, told media members it was “amazing” the day had come that a commercial flight was leaving Brookley.
“This is an awesome day for the city,” he said during a press conference at the terminal. “This is one of the most significant things to happen on this footprint. It’s one of the most significant things to happen in this city.”
The Mobile Airport Authority stuck to a rigorous timeline in order to transform a space previously rented by Airbus into a new terminal. Not only did the entire inside of the terminal have to be built out, but a security plan had to be finalized and submitted to the federal government.
“I’m really delighted to be here,” Frontier Airlines’ Director of Communications Jonathan Freed said while standing near the new security checkpoint. “When I came for the announcement in January, this building was an empty shell. It is amazing what commitment, determination … can do. Airports are economic engines. We are proud to be a partner and help give everyone a lift, pun intended.”
With flights out of Huntsville, Birmingham and Mobile, Freed said Frontier is “all in on this state.” In addition, the airline has purchased 200 new Mobile-built Airbus A320 aircraft and is looking for places to fly them. He encouraged passengers to buy tickets and essentially “vote” on where they would like those planes to fly.
“The plane that’s going to pull up here was delivered on March 22,” he said. “It’s a brand-new aircraft and it came back home to Mobile today to take you to Chicago.”
Like every Frontier jet that comes with an animal on the tail portion, Freed said the plane departing Mobile was emblazoned with a rabbit named Hops.
“I know Hops is going to be very proud to take you where you are going,” he said.
Mobile Airport Authority President Chris Curry said the new airport, which will cater first to low-cost carriers, such as Frontier, is designed to grow business development and tourism in the city.
“Businesses thrive when more flights are available and inexpensive,” he said. “It will help make Mobile a more attractive destination for conferences as well.”
In addition to the twice-weekly flights to Chicago, three Frontier flights will be departing from the Mobile Downtown Airport, or BFM, for Denver. Via is also scheduled to fly from BFM to Orlando-Sanford.
“I’m not sure when Via will start its flights from the downtown airport,” Curry said.
When Via begins its flights from Brookley, the airport will host nine flights per week. In contrast, Mobile Regional Airport at Bates Field in West Mobile services more than 20 flights per week.
Since that first flight and the inbound flight from Chicago O’Hare International Airport that preceded it, Curry said the airport has learned a lot about the services it provides to the airlines downtown and how to improve them. Specifically, Curry said the airport can improve how it handles baggage going forward and better handle passenger check-in.
“There’s some new stuff we’re working on now,” he said. “It’s some very small things that the average passenger probably didn’t notice. It’s something where experience will do us best.”
As for that in-bound or arriving flight from Chicago to Mobile on Frontier, Curry said there were more than 90 passengers. In addition to Stimpson, city spokesman George Talbot and their wives, Curry was also on the first Frontier flight to Chicago.
Lagniappe has requested information about the trip from Talbot, but has not received the information as of press time on Tuesday, May 7.
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