UPDATE: Columbia airport says Frontier flights will end in May

Feb 18, 2013

The Columbia Regional Airport announced Frontier Airlines will stop services to and from Orlando, Fla. effective May 13, leaving passengers who had already booked flights for the summer out of luck. The carrier began flying to and from Orlando last November.

In a statement, airport officials said they are still trying to find out why Frontier is stopping its services. What’s more, officials said they only found out about the discontinued flights from passengers – not the airline.  

Columbia Mayor Bob McDavid said he learned of Frontier’s decision at the same time the public did. “I’ve been worried about this for a couple of months,” he said. “From our analysis of the airline industry, we know that the cost of flying an Airbus between Columbia and Orlando – it’s 951 miles – is somewhere between $15,000 and $18,000. So, what’s concerned me for a couple of months is, well, you can’t sell tickets for $50 each way and get to that kind of money.”

Frontier’s decision comes after the airline announced it would be adding additional flights to Orlando starting in April, McDavid said, which he saw as counterintuitive.

“About four or six weeks ago, they announced they were adding a third weekly flight from Columbia to Orlando,” he said. “The first reaction was, ‘Hey, that’s great!’ But then you start to think, where did that plane come from? They’re moving that plane here and they’re losing money here but adding another flight."

The Columbia Regional Airport is no stranger to airlines departing. In November, Delta Air Lines announced it would leave the market, which they did on Feb. 13. Other carriers that once served the airport include Ozark, US Airways and American, the latter of which recently resumed flights after a nearly seven-year absence.

Frontier spokesperson Kate O’Malley told KBIA the service was being canceled because “bookings did not meet expectations for a new market,” and that passengers who booked flights past May 13 would be offered a full refund for the cost of their tickets. When the flights began last November, Andrea Toller, a Frontier director of sales, said she thought the airline could expand service from Columbia to Denver.

When asked why there was no announcement from Frontier regarding the change, O’Malley said the company does not issue press releases announcing discontinuation of services. Recent press releases on its website, though, indicate the carrier is starting new services from Denver to Eugene, Ore., and Fresno, Calif., just a few days after ending service to Columbia.