A new air carrier is coming to South Bend to provide non-stop service to Denver.
Denver is the hub of Frontier Airlines where passengers will find connecting flights to many west coast cities.
The first South Bend flight is on tap for October 11th, and the service will continue for at least a year thanks to a federal grant that will be used to keep the flights financially afloat.
“You know our hope is that and our expectation frankly, when we launch a new market we often do so with some sort of financial guarantee in place, our hope and expectation is that we never touch a dollar of that money, and I fully expect that to be the case here,” said Josh Flyr with Frontier Airlines.
That means that Frontier would have to fill a lot of the 138 seats on the Airbus 319 it will use.
“Introductory pricing for this market will be $79 to Denver so we think that'll ring some bells and alert people to the fact that there's a new carrier here in South Bend, said Flyr.
“We’re ecstatic to have a new airline in town,” said Mike Daigle, Executive Director of the St. Joseph County Airport Authority. “This goes, it’s nice for the connection going to the west coast and the following (connecting) destinations with Frontier are phenomenal.”
Daigle says the flight service will be examined on a monthly basis. “And based upon where the numbers are will determine whether we've got to take some of that guaranteed (grant) money and send it back their direction or, whether we get to bank it.”
With about $1 million set aside to keep the Denver flight afloat, Frontier is banking in the fact that west coast air options out of South Bend are now generally poor and or expensive.
“I'm a frequent traveler that goes to the west coast cause have family out there, and it’s kind of a pain to get to the west coast sometimes,” said St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Rea. “I honestly think that there's a lot of people that fly west out of here, whether it be business or personally or from a visitor's standpoint, this helps us connect to the entire west coast.”
Frontier will depart South Bend at 10 a.m. and head to Denver four days a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday).
Return flights will depart Denver at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, arriving in South Bend at about 11:30 p.m.
“One of the great things about the flight schedule that they've put into place for us is the aircraft will arrive here late at night so if you get people who are coming here to do business, they're going to have to stay in one of our local hotels,” said Daigle. “But this is great economic benefit for the whole entire Michiana region.”
While the introductory fare is $79, Flyr would not say how much the regular fare from South Bend will be.
Frontier does fly out of Indianapolis where the regular fare there appears to be about $125, while Frontier flights out of Grand Rapids appear to be $175.
Flyr noted that the first flight would come the Thursday before the Notre Dame- Stanford game, and in plenty of time for Notre Dame -BYI, so he expected plenty of football fans to fill the seats. (Both games will take place in South Bend).