Less than a year after starting its route, Frontier Airlines will discontinue its direct route from Phoenix-Mesa Gateway to Denver later this year.
Gateway public information officer Brian Sexton wrote in an email the airline, which started its daily route to the Colorado hub — the 10th busiest airport in the world in 2010 according to Airports Council International — in November, will discontinue the route this winter. Frontier corporate communications manager Kate O’Malley said the airline decided to discontinue the service due to “poor performance.”
“At this point, we do not have plans to return to [Mesa],” she said.
Mesa mayor and chair of the airport’s board of directors Scott Smith, however, emphasized “it’s not an airport issue but part of bigger issues going on with Frontier.” He added the airline is ending the route despite filling between 80 to 85 percent of those flights.
“Even without any active advertising, they were flying flights out that were nearly full,” he said.
The service out of Gateway is the second route to Denver Frontier closed in the past year. In July 2012, Inside Tucson Business reported the airline closed its direct route from Tucson to Denver.
Although the Frontier route will close, Sexton said Gateway expects Spirit Airlines to restore its service to Denver starting in November.
Frontier’s decision came in tandem with a decision made by Allegiant Air, Gateway’s primary commercial flight provider, to end its route from Gateway to Honolulu beginning in August. As with Frontier, Smith said the decision to end the direct route was focused on Allegiant end and isn’t limited to Mesa. Rather, Smith said all of Allegiant’s Honolulu routes — encompassing cities like Boise, Idaho and Stockton, Calif. — except for Las Vegas will end at least temporarily. Allegiant spokesperson Jessica Wheeler confirmed the airline is curtailing the route at other airports in an effort to keep up with its 90-percent capacity target for all flights.
Sexton expressed similar sentiments, and added Allegiant might resurrect the direct Honolulu flight in 2014, although Wheeler said Allegiant has not made a decision about when it might reboot the route.
“In the case of Honolulu, I think it’s less about us and more about Allegiant learning how to efficiently service the islands,” he said.
For Allegiant, Wheeler said cutting off service during non-peak seasons makes financial sense for the company, and is a trend it has done with routes in Florida and even with additional flights from Phoenix-Mesa Gateway.
“It’s common business practice we’ve been doing for quite a while,” she said.
She added Gateway has “just blown up” for Allegiant, which she said operates approximately 33 routes from the Mesa-based airport. That total does not include flights the company opens to cover high-volume travel seasons like the holiday season.
Despite what he called “bumps in the road,” Smith said Gateway has expanded the number of travelers it serves to 1.5 million, and expects the airport will continue to grow in the long run.
“We’ll find someone who can appreciate the opportunity,” he said.
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