BLOOMINGTON — Frontier Airlines is returning to Central Illinois Regional Airport, adding nonstop flights to Denver and to Orlando, Fla.
CIRA officials made the announcement Tuesday morning at an airport news conference.
Frontier will begin its Denver service Sept. 24, said airport Executive Director Carl Olson. New flights to Orlando will start Oct 2.
"We are proud to bring our unique brand of low fares done right back to Bloomington," said Jonathan Freed, director of corporate communications for Frontier.
Normal Mayor Chris Koos was among area elected officials, current and former Bloomington-Normal Airport Authority Board members, and others who were present to hear the announcement.
"It's great news that we're getting more air service, and the flight to Denver is key," said Koos. "That's really going to draw people to this airport. It's a big win for the airport and community."
The airline previously provided air service to Denver, serving CIRA from 1997 to 2001. Later, it returned to the airport with service to Denver and Orlando, but that service ended in 2014, and 2015, respectively.
"At the time they were doing very well," said Olson of Frontier's last withdrawal from CIRA. "They had 90 percent of their seats filled. But the reason they left is they had a cost structure that was very hard for them to be profitable to the level they wanted. They since have restructured and taken on a new business model. And for that reason they are able to offer these lower fares."
For the week of Sept. 24 through Sept. 28, Frontier's new flights to Denver will depart CIRA at 5:21 p.m. Monday and Friday, arriving at 6:45 p.m. at Denver International Airport; and departing Denver at 1:21 p.m., arriving at CIRA at 4:31 p.m. on those two days.
The expanded schedule for the Denver flights begins Oct. 2, with flights leaving CIRA at 6:35 p.m., arriving at 7:59 p.m. at Denver on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday; and departing Denver at 6:05 a.m., arriving at 9:15 a.m. at CIRA on those three days.
Flights to Orlando will leave CIRA at 10 a.m., arriving at 1:30 p.m. at Orlando International Airport on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday; and depart from Orlando at 4:25 p.m., arriving at CIRA at 5:50 p.m. on those three days.
"This represents the only low-fare service, nonstop, to Denver in Illinois outside Chicago," said Olson. "It also represents the only nonstop service to Orlando International Airport in all of Illinois outside Chicago. Orlando, of course, is the No. 1 destination for all of this part of the state."
The airport currently has nonstop flights to and from Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Minneapolis, Orlando (via the Orlando-Sanford Airport) and St. Petersburg-Clearwater.
Allegiant flies twice weekly to Florida; American Airlines has nonstop flights to Chicago and Dallas; and Delta offers daily access to Atlanta and Minneapolis.
"We're constantly looking for ways to grow capacity, increase seats and increase service to really help the community be vibrant," said Olson. "Conversations are always ongoing with airlines. In this case, we really got some good traction and good momentum with Frontier."
To celebrate its return to CIRA, Frontier is offering $39 one-way fares, but they have to be purchased by Wednesday (June 20). Purchasers must fly between Oct. 2 and Nov. 14.
"Fares, like any airline, fluctuate a little bit. Because we are a low-cost carrier our fares are always low," said Freed. "So the $39 introductory fare that you're seeing today won't be the last time you see fares as low as this. We're constantly running sales.
"Our business model is engineered to offer low prices consistently at all times," he added.
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