- Associated Press - Monday, January 27, 2020

DOVER, Del. (AP) - Frontier Airlines is returning service to Delaware, almost five years after it ended its operation in the state, according to state officials.

Gov. John Carney’s schedule for this week shows that he will attend an event Tuesday at the Wilmington- New Castle Airport to announce restoration of commercial airline service by Frontier beginning this spring.

The governor’s office declined to comment Monday and a Frontier spokesman said in an email that the company had nothing to add.

The Delaware River and Bay Authority, which manages the airport, said in a news release Monday that government officials would be joined “by senior executives of a major airline … to announce the restoration of commercial air service to Delaware.”

Delaware has been the only state without commercial airline service since Frontier left in June 2015 after a two-year run.

Denver-based Frontier, an ultra low-cost airline, first began service in Delaware in July 2013. It once offered flights from Wilmington-New Castle to Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Houston, and three Florida destinations. It later limited its Delaware flights to Orlando and Tampa before ceasing operations completely in June 2015.

News of Frontier’s return comes as New Castle County, which owns the airport, awaits a final report from a task force exploring options for the facility. New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer commissioned the task force in October to provide recommendations regarding the airport, which is managed by the DRBA under a 30-year lease. The county faces a June deadline to notify the DRBA of any intent to renegotiate or terminate the lease, which expires in 2025.

The DRBA is a bistate organization created by a compact between Delaware and New Jersey. It operates and maintains the Delaware Memorial Bridge, the Cape May-Lewes Ferry and five regional airports.

James Salmon, a spokesman for the DRBA, said Monday that officials recently signed a memorandum regarding the resumption of air service at Wilmington-New Castle, but that, under federal law, DRBA board approval was not needed.

“If an airline wants to establish service, they can establish service,” he said.

“The board is aware of what’s happening and are making the necessary commitments for the airline to begin service,” Salmon added.

Salmon confirmed that recent DRBA discussions regarding Frontier were done behind closed doors as part of the agency’s planning process. Meeting minutes indicate that the DRBA’s economic development committee met in executive session in November, and again in December, to discuss “long range planning.”

Salmon maintained that planning discussions can be held in secret under Delaware’s Freedom of Information Act. The Associated Press filed a petition with the Delaware attorney general’s office last week seeking a determination of whether the DRBA violated the open-meetings law by holding the planning discussions in executive session.

Salmon said he did not know whether Delaware has offered economic incentives to Frontier, but that the Delaware Prosperity Partnership was “in the loop.” The public-private partnership was incorporated by Carney to lead Delaware’s economic development efforts, including recommending economic incentives for businesses looking to relocate or expand in Delaware.

A spokesman for Carney said Monday that the state has not offered any economic incentives to Frontier.

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