Airline notes: Frontier expands, Jet Blue exits and Bermuda airline arrives at Baltimore-Washington

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Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport is seeing changes in airline service, with Frontier Airlines taking on Southwest and American while Jet Blue says goodbye.

While flying to BWI comes with tolls, Delaware business and leisure passengers can sometimes save money, thanks to the presence of discount carriers, the biggest being Southwest. The Texas-based airline has many nonstops out of Charm City. BWI also has low-cost covered on-airport parking, at least when compared to Philadelphia.

Starting April 10, Frontier will add service between BWI Marshall and Charlotte, Chicago Midway and Detroit.  The Charlotte service will operate daily, with flights to Chicago Midway and Detroit four times weekly.

Southwest operates nonstops on all of the above routes. Charlotte is a profitable fortress hub for American, although Southwest offers competing flights from BWI to the North Carolina business destination. Based on comments from Frontier’s CEO, the airline targeted what it views as overpriced markets, while pulling back at leisure destinations where fares are lower.

Frontier did not undertake a big expansion from Philadelphia International Airport, where it is now the second-largest carrier.

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However, it did add a daily nonstop to Minneapolis-St. Paul after doing the same with Pittsburgh. The Twin Cities is a hub for Delta Airlines. Minnesota-based Sun Country offers limited service, and ramps up schedules during the summer travel season.

Southwest seems content to offer a limited number of Philly flights connecting to other destinations from its focus cities, often Chicago and Denver. More than a decade ago, it was smacked down by American’s predecessor, USAirways, when it offered flights to Pittsburgh and New England. American could give Frontier the same treatment. The carrier had a strong fourth quarter and may be more willing to defend its profitable turf.

Bermudair adds BWI

Adding service at BWI is a start-up airline, Bermudair.

BermudAir will offer three weekly roundtrip flights on the new route starting March 18.

BWI Marshall Airport will become the fourth U.S. destination for BermudAir, which first started service in September 2023. BermudAir is Bermuda’s flagship airline, offering flights on two Embraer E175 aircraft.

Airport officials noted that in the first quarter of 2024, capacity at BWI Marshall was 5% higher than last year and 2% higher than the same period in 2019, before the pandemic.

Jet Blue exits

On the minus side, Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport will see the end of Jet Blue service.

It follows a decision by antitrust regulators to block a merger between Jet Blue and discount carrier Spirit. Spirit is appealing the decision.

Jet Blue only offered a few flights to and from Boston from BWI Marshall and has seen red ink as the Big 4 carriers beef up their presence in key markets.

Jet Blue still offers service between Philadelphia and Boston but faces competition from American, Delta and Frontier. Regulators rejected an alliance with American. That’s being appealed.

Meanwhile, Jet Blue has a new CEO after her predecessor, who pushed for the merger, stepped down.

Spirit has also been struggling with profitability and perhaps lost momentum. Pending mergers lead to long-term plans being put on hold, and Spirit might have fallen into that trap, even though the hook-up with Jet Blue was always iffy. Spirit has also grounded dozens of its planes due to problems with jet engines.

By the way, Avelo Airlines still offers flights to its hub in New Haven and Wilmington, NC from BWI.

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