Airline and City of San Antonio officials announced the arrival of Denver-based Frontier Airlines and a new nonstop flight to Philadelphia from San Antonio International Airport on Tuesday morning at the San Antonio International Airport (SAT).
No other airline currently operates nonstop flights between SAT and Philadelphia International Airport. The US Airways nonstop flight from San Antonio to Philadelphia that began in 2012 was discontinued last year after the airline merged with American Airlines. Philadelphia is one of 37 nonstop flights out of SAT and will begin operations on May 13.
"The introduction of nonstop to Philadelphia is a great one," said interim Aviation Director Noel Thomas Jones. Tuesday was his second day on the job as he, a retired U.S. Air Force Lt., took over when former Director Frank Miller abruptly resigned earlier this month. "Very few people like to transfer to get to their final destinations."
And for most business travelers, that extra time transferring from one plane to another is more than just inconvenient – it's time and money wasted.
"As part of the world economy, you've got to connect via air routes," said Councilman Joe Krier (D9). "The more nonstop routes San Antonio can have the better access we have to the global economy."
The airline will also offer nonstop flights from San Antonio to Denver, Las Vegas, and Atlanta, which are also offered by other airlines at SAT. Several other lines will be added to Frontier's international route map in 2016 (see below), spreading its reach to more than 60 cities in the U.S., Mexico, Jamaica, and Dominican Republic. San Antonio is one of four cities – Colorado Springs; Columbus, Ohio; and Pittsburgh – that Frontier announced new services at on Tuesday.
Frontier is the first to take advantage of a new airline incentive package approved by City Council in November aimed at attracting more nonstop flights to key business centers across the U.S.
Philadelphia is "one of America's great cities," Krier said, with a strong medical industry that San Antonio's own health and biomedical industries can connect too.
The menu of incentives for the Air Service Incentive Development Program, developed by the City through collaborations with the Air Service Development Task Force and San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, includes fee waivers for landings, terminal rentals and airfield usage that now extend into the second year for carriers establishing operations at SAT. The program, which expires in 2018, was allocated $600,000 for marketing incentives and anticipates $1 million in rent and fee waivers.
For instance, the program calls for a $100,000 payment to an airline that starts offering a new nonstop flight for a full year – which it seems Frontier would be eligible for as well as a piece of a one-time $100,000 "to promote new airlines entering the market and services being provided."
Payments from the City would double for an airline willing to provide nonstop service to an airport on its list of "targeted" cities. Philadelphia is not on that list.
Assistant City Manager Carlos Contreras oversees the City's Aviation Department and said that while the incentives are helpful, it's the market that will ultimately attract more airlines and more nonstop flights to business hubs.
"The market has to be present and the market is present as evidenced by Frontier's decision," Contreras said after the press conference.
The City and chambers of commerce are constantly courting airline companies, "making the business case" to expand nonstop services to and from San Antonio, he said. "(The business community) really has stepped up. They're willing to come forward and make that statement loud and clear to the airlines."
Frontier announced last week 42 additional nonstop routes from Chicago O'Hare, Atlanta, Denver, Las Vegas, Orlando, and Philadelphia that will be launched between May and June.
UPDATE: This story has been updated with details from the Monday morning press conference.
*Top image: Aviation Director Lt. Gen. (retired) Noel Thomas Jones announces Frontier Airlines' new nonstop flight services at SAT. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.