If you were to look at the relationship between the Mobile Airport Authority and Frontier Airlines like the plot of a favorite romantic comedy, the two leading characters are nowhere near a happy ending.
The roller coaster courtship that brought the budget carrier to the Mobile Downtown Airport a number of times in the past is off again, according to MAA President Chris Curry, but the two sides could be reunited.
It appears, for now, Frontier has discontinued non-stop service from Mobile to Orlando after only two flights, Curry said. Frontier previously offered flights from the Port City to Denver and Chicago before discontinuing the Chicago flight for business reasons and cancelling the Denver service earlier than expected in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
MAA announced the flights to Orlando would begin with once-weekly service on April 18, but Curry said the first two weeks of flights were cancelled due to a lack of interest.
“Frontier had two or three flights to Orlando,” Curry said. “The last flight was Saturday.”
Although the airline was given CARES Act funding that would’ve required it to keep service intact until Sept. 30, Curry said the U.S. Department of Transportation allowed the company to exempt its flights out of Mobile from the requirement.
A DOT document confirms that Frontier had proposed an exemption for Mobile, but Curry said he has written a letter to DOT staff asking the department to reconsider the exemption.
“We don’t agree because I said I don’t believe (Frontier) intended to operate in good faith,” he said. “Why else would they announce service six days in advance in a pandemic? In my opinion they never gave the market a chance.”
Short of reconsidering the exemption, Curry said he wants DOT officials to grant MAA some concessions.
“We consider ourselves to be partners and participated in advertising for them as well,” he said. “We were careful to advertise during the pandemic … but as things opened up we spent marketing money for the new destination to Orlando. It was less than $10,000, but if they’re going to leave I want my damn money back.”
On a brighter note, Curry said the MAA will complete its master plan for the downtown airport in July. While there are currently no commercial flights departing from the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley, Curry said there is interest from legacy carriers to move downtown sooner than expected.
“Our position has not changed at all,” he said. “We’re still doing all the things we were doing before. COVID-19 was just a bump in the road.”
Curry said interest from bigger carriers is due in part to Frontier, who he credited with proving the concept that a downtown airport would be beneficial to Mobile. The downtown airport was able to draw 50 percent to 60 percent of the Baldwin County market over to Mobile. On average, the Mobile Regional Airport draws about 10 percent from the neighboring county, he said.
“With a better location and easier access we can serve more people,” Curry said. “It proved that this is a better location.”
This page is available to our local subscribers. Click here to join us today and get the latest local news from local reporters written for local readers. The best deal is found by clicking here. Check it out now.
Already a member of the Lagniappe family? Sign in by clicking here