Frontier Airlines announced Tuesday it would begin offering direct flights from Tyler to Denver starting in July.
This will be the second airline and second route offered from the city-owned Tyler Pounds Regional Airport. The current route is a flight to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport through American Airlines.
The announcement comes a few months after the city of Tyler finished spending tens of millions of dollars on a refurbished and extended runway, called Runway 4-22, which is designed to accommodate larger aircraft.
The city owns and operates the airport on Texas Highway 64, and the Federal Aviation Administration paid for about 90 percent of the cost of the more than $48 million runway expansion project, with the city paying the rest.
“Our hope was (the runway) would attract some other regional or national carriers, and that’s what has happened, so all of that last 15 or 20 years worth of work has led to today,” Mayor Martin Heines said.
“That’s how Tyler builds community,” Heines said. “We start and we focus on the goals and we get there, and that’s the beauty of municipal government. We control our own destiny. We work with other partners like the FAA and move forward.”
Jonathan Freed, a spokesman for Frontier, said the company chose Tyler because there is a market for what he called the company’s ultra-low prices. The introductory rate for the flight from Tyler to Dever for $39 each way is good through Sunday.
“There’s nobody else here who does what we do, and we’re proud to bring these low fares here because we’re really serious about making it possible for more people to fly, and once we get them flying, to get them to fly more often,” Freed said.
Once in Denver, travelers will be able to connect to flights all over the world, because the company is headquartered in Denver, Freed said. International destinations include Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
Davis Dickson, the airport manager, said his staff already had used internal data to identify a significant number of travelers who start in Tyler and use the connecting flight in Dallas/Fort Worth to get to Denver. He said companies like Frontier have more sophisticated internal analytics that likely showed the same thing.
“What we found using software is that cities like Denver, Las Vegas, Orlando, Chicago — those are our top (four) cities and Denver is real high on that list,” Dickson said. “That and Orlando and Las Vegas were some of our biggest destination markets from here.”
Dickson said the airport could easily hold four or five airlines, and the community would be well-served with that many. He said TYR has cheaper parking than most major cities, more convenient long-term parking, and travelers don’t have to deal with as much traffic.
Additionally, he said his staff went to a trade show in Cleveland in the fall to recruit new airlines to Tyler Pounds and has followed up with multiple airlines since then. He said they have stayed in contact with airlines about offering potential routes.
“Sometimes we don’t get a response back, but we don’t want to give up,” Dickson said. “And let’s not forget, American Airlines has been a long-term partner here and has stuck with us, and we want to make sure this airport facility is what it needs to be for them.”
Tom Mullins, the CEO of the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce and Tyler Economic Development Corporation, said he received correspondence Tuesday from chambers of commerce and economic development corporations around East Texas who said they would benefit.
“It’s gonna be an attractive option for people for a large radius around East Texas,” Mullins said. “Frontier, they’ve been a very successful airline for a long time so they know what they’re doing. They’re competitive, and they have a good reputation.”
Mullins also said the additional airline can help bring down prices at the airport overall because of the competition.
“That is good for the consumer, when there’s competition and prices come down,” he said. “That’s going to get people’s attention, believe me.”
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