At one point last year, the area's regional airports seemed to be the next big thing.
Atlantic City International Airport announced last November that United Airlines would be offering nonstop daily service between there and its hubs in Chicago and Houston.
That same month, Trenton-Mercer Airport in Ewing reopened to the public after spending $20 million on renovations. Denver-based Frontier Airlines was poised to begin offering service to 17 destinations from the airport at the time.
Frontier also made an investment in nearby Wilmington, Delaware, where it began offering service to several destinations across the country last year as yet another alternative to Philadelphia International Airport.
Similarly, even the famed no-frills airline People Express made a comeback in the last year, beginning service out of Newark Liberty International Airport last July.
But here's a quick synopsis of how things have gone since: United pulled out of Atlantic City, Frontier has suspended all service in Wilmington and People Express has put things on hold in Newark after not even three months.
And yet, Trenton-Mercer stands tall. Other than a few seasonal service adjustments, Frontier continues to move ahead with operations at the airport.
Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes said that's partially a testament to the “close, tight-knit relationship” the airline maintains with the county.
And everywhere Hughes looks, it appears as if Frontier is in it for the long haul.
Frontier is already using most of the airport's available gate space and is also looking to establish a local crew and base another plane there, Hughes said.
“Our relationship with Frontier is doing great,” he said.
Frontier Communications Director Todd Lehmacher shares those sentiments, saying in an email that, other than previously announced seasonal service fluctuations, no additional changes are currently expected at Trenton-Mercer.
“We are pleased with our performance and appreciate our close partnership with Brian Hughes and the rest of the Trenton-Mercer team,” Lehmacher said. “We are always looking at opportunities to expand our network, including at Trenton-Mercer as it makes economic sense.”
Having been given no indication to believe otherwise, Hughes said that he “can't draw relationships” between his county's airport and to what has transpired in Atlantic City and Wilmington.
Nor does he want to.
“As a New Jerseyan and as somebody that likes commercial flights, having things slow down in Atlantic City doesn't bring me any joy at all,” Hughes said. “We need more regional airports that do point-to-point flights like we do.”
Hughes said last year there was genuine concern that Frontier service at Wilmington and Philadelphia would take business away, but it never manifested.
“We felt we would be impacted that way, but we really weren't,” Hughes said.
Hughes believes Trenton-Mercer's staying power is in its competitive advantage. Unless the major airports in the area drastically lower gate fees and ticket prices, that shouldn't be changing anytime soon.
Hughes said it's his understanding that Frontier's flights out of Trenton-Mercer currently run at over 90 percent capacity, which begs the obvious question: What about expansion?
“We feel good about where we are and we just have to figure out when to pull the trigger on getting a new terminal,” Hughes said.
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Frontier Airlines provides flights to these destinations: