The new passenger terminal at Mobile Downtown Airport is officially open for business, and the first Frontier Airlines flight has already come and gone. Flight 413 left the brand new passenger terminal at Brookley Field a little ahead of schedule today, headed for Chicago-O'Hare International Airport on a brand new Airbus A320 jet -- one that just happened to have been built in Mobile and delivered to the airline a few short weeks ago. The flight marks the resumption of non-stop service to the Windy City; but much more important, it opens up a new era in air travel from the Gulf Coast.
The Frontier Airlines flights are cheap. It's not unthinkable to head to Denver for as little as $78 round trip, or even less. These aren't introductory air fares. They are everyday fares that will rise and fall with demand, and the occasional fare sale. But Frontier's low fares also mean a la carte pricing -- you'll pay extra for just about everything, including an advance seat assignment, bags stored in the overhead bins, checked bags, and your food and beverage selections. But for a weekend in Denver, you may decide to save the money and just take what can fit underneath the seat in front of you; and in that case, you'll just pay the base fare and taxes.
For the inaugural flights, there was a big presentation, lots of media... and cake! Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson, who boarded the first flight, said a few words; and Frontier's Director of Communications Johnathan Freed also spoke for several minutes. Both stressed the need for locals to support the new service in order to make it grow. Freed noted that Frontier has ordered about 200 planes from Airbus, and they'll keep adding destinations. Simply put, we can see more service to Mobile if we demonstrate that it will be a success.
My first impression of the new terminal was that it's small, and I should say delightfully so. Talk about convenience! I parked my car and walked just a few steps to the terminal, and it's only a few more steps to the gate. If you think Mobile Regional Airport is small, it might as well be Atlanta-Hartsfield compared to the small terminal at Brookley Field. I didn't have a ticket, so I couldn't pass through security, but I took a look around the landside part of the terminal. There is a fairly big check-in counter, one that will probably seem a lot smaller if more than one flight is checking in at the same time. The baggage claim is off to the right when you walk into the terminal from the parking lot; and car rental companies are off to the left. You'd usually see baggage claim near the rental cars, but did I mention the terminal is small? Everything is really close together.
Eventually, the Mobile Airport Authority wants to relocate all flights to BFM -- that's the airport code for Mobile Downtown Airport. But for now, legacy carriers Delta, American and United will continue to fly from MOB. Frontier Airlines and Via Air (to Orlando-Sanford Airport) will fly from Brookley Field.
Take A Tour of the New Terminal At Brookley Field
In today's opening ceremony, Frontier's Johnathan Freed (correctly) stated that airports drive local economies. That's exactly what Mobile's leadership is counting on with the opening of this new passenger terminal. The terminal is a mere four miles from Downtown Mobile, and instantly becomes the most convenient airport to fast-growing Baldwin County.
The new terminal and everything around it says a lot about where Mobile is heading, too. And a mistake on my part actually puts an exclamation point on that.
Here's what happened. I took a short video of the incoming first flight. Except that it wasn't actually the right plane! I had mistakenly taken a video of another Frontier Airlines jet, one that was probably on a test flight with Airbus and hadn't yet been delivered to the airline. I'd say that it's a great sign when we can so easily mistake one plane for another. Because we're not just landing commercial flights at a new terminal, we're now building the planes that fly here.
The actual flight landed a few minutes later, and it was a plane built in Mobile and delivered to the airline on March 22, 2019.