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Frontier Airlines set to end its service in Fargo

FARGO -- Frontier Airlines - touted as a low-cost carrier that would bring down fares at Fargo's Hector International Airport - is dropping its Fargo-Denver service, effective April 5.

The move is part of a companywide effort to use its aircraft more efficiently, Republic Airways Holdings Inc., the corporate parent of Frontier, stated in a news release Thursday.

"This is disappointing. But these are the ups and down of air service," said Shawn Dobberstein, Hector's executive director.

Frontier "did a great job serving our community with a great aircraft," he said.

He noted that United will continue to provide Fargo-Denver service.

Frontier began offering its only Fargo service, the Fargo-Denver route, in May 2008. It has been providing two daily round-trip flights on a 74-seat aircraft.

Frontier's arrival in Fargo was promoted by the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corp. as an important step in increasing competition and lowering fares at Hector.

Frontier has saved area fliers a great deal of money by reducing fares charged by other airlines that serve Hector, Brian Walters, president of the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Corp., said Thursday.

The development corporation provided a one-time grant of $125,000 to help bring Frontier to Hector.

Walters said that amount was minor to what many other cities offer to attract air service and that the grant has been repaid many times over in the form of lower air fares.

The development corporation, citing the importance of air service in a global economy, has made a priority of attracting more carriers and flights to Hector.

Walters said that will continue despite Frontier's decision to leave Fargo.

Hector has been on an upswing in recent years, with a record 348,961 passengers enplaned in 2009.

In April, American Eagle Airlines, the regional affiliate for American Airlines, will begin service between Hector and Chicago's O'Hare International.

United Express already offers Hector/Chicago service, but the arrival of American Eagle will provide more options for fliers, Dobberstein said.

Frontier/Republic Airways is phasing out its Q400 turboprop aircraft, the plane used for Fargo-Denver service.

Frontier will also end operations April 5 in Tulsa, Okla., and in a number of other markets by the middle of September, the Republic Airways news release said.

It's possible that Frontier/Republic someday could re-establish Fargo service with another aircraft, Dobberstein said.

"I think that opportunity is always present," he said.

Frontier, in two incarnations, has a long history at Hector.

The original Frontier served Hector from 1975 to 1986, when it was purchased by Continental Airlines.

The current Frontier was established in 1994 and served Hector from 1994 to 1996, when it pulled out of North Dakota.