HARLINGEN, RGV – South Padre Island Mayor Dennis Stahl says he will do all he can to encourage Rio Grande Valley residents to fly Frontier Airlines from Valley International Airport direct to Denver and/or Chicago.

The more people use Frontier, the more likely the low-fare airline will add additional destinations from VIA, Stahl said, in an exclusive interview with the Rio Grande Guardian and RGV Public Radio 88FM.

Frontier announced last week that Harlingen will be the 100th city on its route network, with the fare to either Denver or Chicago starting at less than $100 for a round trip. Beginning in late November, Frontier will fly from VIA twice a week from to Chicago and three times a week to Denver.

Stahl played a key role in persuading Denver-based Frontier to add Harlingen to its route network.

“I was sworn in as mayor in mid-November. I had my first meeting with a major air carrier on December 12. In January we had our first meeting with Frontier Airlines. This announcement today is the culmination of eight months of work, working with VIA,” Stahl said.

“We are so excited. We appreciate Frontier coming to the Rio Grande Valley. We are going to fill up those planes.”

Stahl said that when he was sworn in as mayor, one of the things he particularly wanted to concentrate on was expanding SPI’s visitor market. One way of doing this, he said, was increasing the number of markets served by local airports.

“Beginning in December we began meeting with airlines, working with VIA, and we saw a real opportunity to work with Frontier Airlines,” Stahl said.

“We want to get more non-stop flights into this catchment area, or into Harlingen for the easy transport to South Padre Island. It will mean many, many, new visitors to the Island, first time exposure to them. We are working very hard at continuing improvement in our visitor count from other cities and exposure around the country.”

Stahl predicted Frontier’s arrival would not be the last by a new airline to the region. “I cannot say anything more at this stage but there is more coming in air lift.”

Asked if it was strange that SPI would work with VIA when the Island is named as part of Brownsville’s airport, Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport, Stahl said: 

“We do not run the Valley, if each city chooses to have an airport, we want to partner with anybody who wants to bring flights here.”

Stahl added that he is always trying to think two or three steps ahead. He said he had “cornered” Daniel M. Shurz, COO of Frontier, to ask if the airline would add more destinations from Harlingen, if the passenger loads to Denver and Chicago were successful. 

“I know it is early with this announcement, but this is hugely impactful to the whole Valley. We promised Daniel in Denver that we are going to do everything we can to make sure those planes are full,” Stahl said. “There is a real value proposition here. We are very, very, excited.”

Stahl was interviewed after a news conference held to announce Frontier’s arrival in the Valley. The news conference was held at VIA. 

Some of the VIPs who attended a news conference at Valley International Airport to hear about Frontier Airlines’ arrival in the Rio Grande Valley. (Photo: Mario Muñoz/88FM)

In his remarks at the news conference, Shurz confirmed Harlingen will be Frontier’s 100th city on its route network.

Flights from Harlingen to Chicago O’Hare Airport will be available on Wednesdays and Saturdays, departing Harlingen at 6:05 p.m. and departing Chicago at 1:54 p.m.

Flights to Denver will be available Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays to Denver International Airport, departing Harlingen at 10:55 a.m. and departing Denver at 6:15 a.m.

All of Frontier’s passengers will fly the 180-seat Airbus 320.

“We are a low-fare airline. What that means is lower fares to the Rio Grande Valley than offered by anybody else,” Shurz said. “We’re going to bring more customers into this region, we’re going to bring more tourists into this region. And we are going to make it possible for everyone in the Rio Grande Valley to travel more affordably. That is the most exciting part about what we do.”

Shurz said Valley passengers would be able to fly round trip to Denver and Chicago for less than $100. “This is a different experience… we offer low-based fares, you can fly more cheaply than with anyone else,” he said. Alternatively, if passengers want to include carry on bags or ancillary items, then they can go with a bundle package that Frontier calls ‘The Works.’ This round trip would be less than $200.

“It produces, in general, the lowest refundable fares in the industry, and, I believe, one of the best values in the industry.”

Shurz also confirmed that Frontier would add more destinations from Harlingen, if the services to Denver and Chicago is successful.

“As we have demonstrated across the country, if we are successful with new routes to the city, we will add more. We will add more destinations, we will add more non-stop service. We want to be the airline of choice in this region, we want to give you the best value, the best options to travel. And I am also very excited you are the 100th city in our network and we look forward to starting the service November 21st.”

Shurz added: “We are looking forward to serving everyone in this region. And we are looking forward to being part of the Rio Grande Valley. Tell everyone about the new service. Come fly it.”

At the news conference, Harlingen Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Mezmar said: “It is a great day for Harlingen. It is a great for South Padre Island. It is a great day for Cameron County and the Rio Grande Valley.”

Marvin “Marv” Esterly, director of aviation for VIA said: “Frontier has a very unique product. It is basically a very low-fare airline, and you add items, a la carte pricing. It allows all demographics to fly. It now allows them to fly non-stop to Denver to connect to cities in the northeast. And non-stop to Chicago. A lot of traffic goes to that area. We are really hopeful that we will be able to fill the planes and keep these guys (Frontier) around because they have the potential to grow for us. It means a lot to the City of Harlingen and the entire Rio Grande Valley.”