Right-on-time, at about 1:35 p.m. today, Historic City News editor Michael Gold was on the tarmac when the pilot of the Frontier Airlines A319 made his final approach, lights on, landing gear down and locked, bringing back to life the once bustling St Augustine terminal with travelers on the inaugural flight from Trenton-Mercer Airport in Ewing, New Jersey.
Ed Wuellner reports that his crews are running entirely on coffee, at this point, as they battle a flurry of last minute, expected details — each threatening to derail the long awaited arrival of scheduled airline travel once again.
“We had delays seven years ago with all of the construction, but this time, between coordination with Homeland Security and TSA, we were literally Tuesday before we knew if we were going to have everything necessary to land the plane here today,” Wuellner explained. “It’s a little closer for me than I care for.”
Although no Frontier executives were on the inbound flight, Kate O’Malley, spokesperson for the airline was on the ground in St. Augustine. She has followed through on the process over the past several months since Historic City News reported the decision to make Northeast Florida Regional Airport in St Augustine the destination in this region.
The only airline providing scheduled service out of Trenton-Mercer Airport, the gateway to New Jersey’s state capital, all of central New Jersey, and Southeast Pennsylvania, including metro Philadelphia, is Frontier. There is train service from Trenton-Mercer into Philadelphia and New York City.
“The impact of Frontier flights on our destination is significant,” stated Jeffrey Oliasami, Chairman of the Board for the St. Augustine – Ponte Vedra Visitors and Convention Bureau. “If the current fights (three weekly) stay as full as the one we are welcoming today, in a year, we can expect more than 20,000 new visitors who will spend more than $8.1 million here.”
Effective today, and each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, Frontier will offer transportation between St. Augustine and Trenton on their 138-seat, Airbus 319 aircraft. Frontier says they are committed to offering “Low Fares Done Right” — which means customer amenities, like five rows of comfortable STRETCH seating, each with an additional six inches of legroom, and the airline’s pre-boarding seat selection service.
But like other so called “ultra low fare” airlines, Frontier imposes some limitations in exchange for what the company describes as “amazing low fares” for convenient flights to the Northeast, with fewer hassles and more convenient parking than the congested and expensive Newark and Philadelphia airports.
First, no travel agents. You book your flight online at www.FlyFrontier.com and have a choice of two fare options – “Classic Plus” or “Economy”. Classic Plus is a fully refundable fare that includes amenities like no flight-change fees, a free carry-on bag, one free checked bag, and STRETCH seating. Economy offers the lowest airfares, but the convenience of selecting a seat, or carrying a bag onboard, or a checked bag, require payment of an additional charge.
Those passengers arriving today were greeted with cookies and souvenirs of their flight into St Augustine; presented by Wuellner and his staff. Of course, as with any great event in our history, we were joined by Pedro Menendez de Aviles, and one of the local airport’s most enthusiastic volunteer ambassadors, Randy Brunson.
Both men were smiling ear-to-ear, extending a friendly handshake and “thumbs up” to our guests — despite drizzling rain and inescapable politicians; either one of which can drown out an otherwise perfect celebration.
Photo credits: © 2014 Historic City News staff photographer