FARGO-The newest airline doing business at Hector International Airport will be a familiar name-it's offered flights here four other times before.
Frontier Airlines announced Tuesday, July 18, that it will add Fargo and 20 other cities to its network by next spring, doubling its number of routes.
"We project this will save our customers over a billion dollars annually on their flights," President and CEO Barry Biffle said in a written statement. "These new flights will allow us to serve even more of America and make flying a truly affordable option."
Fargo Airport Authority Executive Director Shawn Dobberstein expects nonstop flights to Denver will resume early next year, though Frontier hasn't announced an exact date or the frequency of Fargo flights.
Dobberstein said the airline will have a "very appealing" fare structure.
"It should provide a level of competition so American, United and certainly Delta will have to compete with those fares to and through Denver on a regular basis," he said.
United Airlines is the only carrier that now offers a nonstop flight from Fargo to Denver. Delta Air Lines, Allegiant Air and American Airlines also fly out of Hector International Airport.
Dobberstein said the "magnitude" of Frontier's announcement was surprising, especially the number of new cities, but the brand's return to Fargo was expected.
Frontier Airlines operated here from 1975 until 1986 and July 1994 to September 1996. It returned two more times in the past decade, offering flights to Denver from May 2008 to April 2010 and November 2012 to April 2015.
Dobberstein said passengers here have "begged" for the company to come back, but Frontier was experimenting with a refined business model that kept it away for the past two years.
"I think what's changed is they've refocused, they have a number of new aircraft coming online, probably more than any other carrier, and they're just in a massive expansion mode as this ultra low-cost carrier," he said.
Dobberstein said airport officials continue to work to get a direct flight from Fargo to Seattle through Alaska Airlines. He's "confident" it will happen eventually, but he said the company has cut its regional travel schedule in response to the industry's pilot shortage, meaning an expansion to Fargo likely won't happen soon.