Monday, November 30, 2015

Frontier and Trenton/Mercer County Airport

Since my last posts back in the snowy, cold Winter of 2014 I've had the opportunity to "feed the aviation junkie" and fly into some new airports, try some new airlines and add some new aircraft to my list. Needless to say it was pretty exciting!  I'm planning to write up some posts on my experiences and will start with one of the trips that involved both a new airport and a new airline.

Over Memorial Day 2015 I had the opportunity to try out Frontier Airlines between Trenton/Mercer County Airport (TTN) in New Jersey to Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW).  This service is a fairly new one for Frontier and they have experimented with flights to cities in the Midwest such as Detroit, Cleveland, Columbus and Chicago from Trenton with varying degrees of success.  The Trenton/Mercer County airport has had an interesting history as well with service from commercial carriers over the years.  The last time the airport had jet service was with the short-lived Eastwind Airlines in the late 1990s.  Trenton is a small airport and the Frontier Airbus A-319 really rocketed off the runway and flung itself across the Delaware River into Bucks County, Pennsylvania.  The flight was nothing special as Frontier has gone with a Ultra Low Cost Carrier (LLC) business model which means you pay a base fare for transportation and then everything else is an "add-on" including seat assignment, checking luggage, bringing luggage onto the plane (with the exception of a small personal item), seating with more legroom and snacks and beverages with the exception of water.  At this juncture you can still use the airplane lavatory without a fee!

Tail shot of my Frontier A-319 at DTW
The flight was a quick hour and I had opted for Frontier's "The Works" ticket which meant I could check bags without a fee and sit in the bulkhead row of the aircraft, up front, which allowed for quick deplaning in Detroit.  One unique feature of boarding in Trenton is the lack of jetways.  Instead passengers walk up a long ramp, similar to the boarding features of a smaller, regional jet.  In Detroit Frontier uses a traditional jetway.  Flights left and arrived on-time and both experienced a 95% load factor.  All in all it was a fine trip although the uninitiated traveler out of Trenton should keep in mind the lack of amenities past security at the airport and when the one kiosk runs out of sandwiches, that is it.  In addition, if Frontier is boarding two flights at the same time it can get crowded in the holding area. In DTW Frontier uses the fairly new North Terminal.

Some travelers feel Frontier "nickels and dimes" its customers.  I tend to disagree with that as the company is very explicit on its web page what costs are included in the ticket and what is not included.  In this particular trip I had a choice between flying out of Trenton or flying out of Newark Liberty International (EWR) on United Airlines or Delta, all on nonstop flights.  The difference in ticket price was well over $250 to fly United or Delta out of EWR with the sector on United flown on a small, cramped regional jet.  Instead I got a fairly spacious A-319!

The other area where Frontier does not work for some travelers is that the company usually has only one flight a day in a particular market.  This type of schedule generally doesn't work for business travelers who need more travel options.  However, for this trip Frontier worked fine for me and I would definitely fly them again if their flight options and fares worked for my needs.  Getting to try out a new airport was just icing on the aviation cake!

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