The new passenger terminal at Mobile's Downtown Airport at Brookley Field is nearing completion, scheduled to open to flights on May 1st -- less than a month from now.
For a couple of years, at least, Mobile will be among the smallest cities in America with two airports offering commercial passenger services. It's a temporary situation, of course, because all passenger services will eventually move to Mobile's new terminal at Brookley Field. Once that happens, Mobile Regional Airport in West Mobile will become a general aviation and freight airport.
The convenience of the new passenger terminal is hard to argue. Located just off I-10 at Michigan Avenue, it will be more easily accessible to more people in our region. For years, people on the Eastern Shore have found it every bit as convenient to drive to Pensacola than to use their local airport in Mobile. That will begin to change on May 1st, with the opening of Mobile's new terminal. Its access to the interstate will be superior to every other airport in our region, making it easier than ever to get in and out of the airport after a trip.
That easy access is what the Mobile Airport Authority is counting on, to attract more passengers and thus more airlines and non-stop service.
(Map by Mobile Airport Authority, all rights reserved)
Frontier Airlines has already announced new ultra low-cost non-stop service to both Chicago and Denver. They can use the convenience of BFM (yes, that's the airport code) to market flights to our beautiful Gulf Coast beaches from those cold weather cities. Passengers from our area can save money and time flying non-stop to these Frontier Airlines hubs.
My wife and I are looking forward to our first trip on Frontier, and we've booked a trip to Denver in May. Honestly, I can't even imagine getting to Denver with a quick flight, because we've always had to make a transfer. This will be ultra convenient, and I'll be sure to review the experience once it's over.
There are a couple of things you should know about Frontier Airlines. It is considered to be a low-cost carrier (LCC), and that typically means lower airfares. Frontier takes the concept a step further and has unbundled its services from the airfare. So while you can fly Frontier on airfare alone, you won't be able to take much with you. Your ticket buys you a seat and the space underneath the seat in front of you -- nothing more.
You will pay extra for a checked bag, and you will pay extra to put a carry-on bag in the overhead bins. If you want to choose your seats, that will also cost extra. The on-board amenities are additional, too, and that includes non-alcoholic beverages. And we should mention that Frontier made news earlier this year with a story about tipping flight attendants.
That said, we've each booked a checked bag ($30) and picked our seats in each direction ($24 for an exit row, but as little as $10), and the cost was still quite reasonable. My advice is that you get the great airfare, and embrace Frontier's ala carte concept. They will charge you for anything and everything, but remember that you're saving a bunch of money on airfare. Use common sense when you book, pay for what you need upfront -- yes, it will cost more to book a checked bag at the airport -- but don't buy what you won't need. We'll pack sensibly and just use a checked bag, allowing us to skip the carry-on bag fee ($35).
Frontier has an extensive route network, which you can use to fly further afield from their hubs in Denver and Chicago. There are even international destinations. But unlike the Big Three network carriers (Delta, United, American), Frontier doesn't fly as frequently to each of their destinations. Service can be fairly limited; and at least to start, Frontier's service from Mobile will include two weekly flights to Chicago and three weekly flights to Denver. So Frontier won't work for every situation. Consider flying one of the major network carriers from Mobile Regional Airport if you really need to get somewhere on another day, or make a tight connection. Those airlines will eventually move to BFM, as well, buf for the next 2-3 years at least, they'll remain at MOB.
There are plenty of reasons to love Frontier Airlines, and it's not just that low airfare. Although with fares to Denver for as little as $92 round-trip during May, taxes included, that may be the thing you love the most about Frontier Airlines.
But there is also the Discount Den, and it's a real bargain for families especially. For an annual fee of $59.99, you and up to six people on the same reservation can get even cheaper airfares. That $92 fare to Denver, for example, drops to under $84 round-trip with Discount Den. Those fares are only available to Discount Den members, always. In addition, Frontier offers Kids Fly Free flights, which can be booked only with a Discount Den membership. If your flight occurs on an eligible flight date (current dates listed here), any child under the age of 15 gets free airfare if accompanied by the purchase of an adult Discount Den fare. Additional fees for bags and seat selection would still apply, but free air fare!
Finally, it's nice to know that when you're flying Frontier, you're flying an airline that's been around for many, many years and is here for the long haul. The first time I ever flew Frontier Airlines was around 1996. They've been in business since 1994, and although they haven't always charged extra for bags and seat assignments, they aren't in danger of going anywhere. In fact, they continue to expand their all-Airbus fleet. They announced an order for 134 new Airbus jets in late 2017. Those planes, built right here in Mobile, will allow the airline to triple in size by 2026. Those orders directly affect our Gulf Coast economy, and flying Frontier helps support that growth.
Plus, flying Frontier from BFM will also help make this a successful launch. That, in turn, will lead to more destinations served and more low-cost flights to those destinations. The competition will drive prices down, while improving convenience. Their is also the economic benefit of successful passenger airports, as they've been shown to improve economic output, wages and income. This move to Brookley Field is designed to grow passengers and grow our region's economy. On May 1st, that bright future takes off.