Frontier Airlines flew in and out of Minot Monday afternoon for the first time in many years.
Frontier has expanded its service from Denver with the launch of nonstop service to Minot four days a week. It's been almost 18 years, but the airline hardly missed a beat with a nearly full, inaugural flight Monday.
"It's a welcome addition," said Andy Solsvig, Minot International Airport director. A fourth airline at the airport gives travelers plenty of options for flying east or west, and more competition could mean more attractive fares, he said.
A Frontier ticket agent assists a customer Monday at the new airline counter at Minot International Airport.
Josh Pickrell, who was among the first passengers to fly out of Minot on Frontier's new service, said Frontier's lower-cost fares will save money as he travels between home in Denver and work in North Dakota. But it's not just about price.
"I love the airline. The airline is great," he said. "It's a lot more comfortable than other planes."
The original Frontier Airlines was Denver's hometown carrier for 40 years before it was purchased in 1986. In 1993, executives from the original Frontier Airlines, as well as some newcomers to the industry, gave the old Frontier a fresh start, launching service in 1994 with routes between Denver and Bismarck, Fargo, Grand Forks and Minot. By 1995, though, Frontier already was changing its business strategy and had left North Dakota before the end of 1996.
Now, Frontier has returned to Bismarck, beginning flights this past spring, and is starting flights to Fargo as well as Minot this week.
Frontier Airlines is a subsidiary of Republic Airways Holdings, which also owns Chautauqua Airlines, Republic Airlines and Shuttle America. Currently in its 19th year of operations, Frontier offers service to more than 80 destinations in the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.
The new nonstop flights from Minot provide a connection to 15 additional destinations throughout the West, including San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle.
Solsvig said he's confident the Minot region's strong economy and the airport's record-breaking passenger traffic will support Frontier for the long haul.
There is the possibility that Frontier could add more flights and destinations if its service goes well, said Chrissy Davis, customer relations director for Frontier, who was in Minot Monday.
Frontier's service includes arrival times in Minot of 11:25 a.m. and 2:05 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Departure times are 2:35 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. on those days.
The new service will operate on 99-seat Embraer 190 aircraft, featuring two-by-two seating and in-flight WiFi service. Additionally, flights will offer five rows of STRETCH seating with an additional five to seven inches of legroom and its SELECT seating product. Frontier's website at FlyFrontier.com is the only place the STRETCH and SELECT seating is available at the time of booking. Also, travelers who book online can select their seats as part of a new feature added in September, Davis said.
Solsvig said the airport terminal is at capacity with a fourth airline. Although there are no additional airlines looking at coming at this time, there has been inquiry, he said. The new terminal is to be built to accommodate up to five airlines comfortably and could fit a sixth.