Delaware loses commercial airline service

The state’s on-again/off-again relationship with commercial airlines is about to be off again. Frontier Airlines plans to end the state’s only commercial flights in June.

A sign advertises the Wilmington Airport.

Wilmington-New Castle Airport. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

Frontier Airlines is leaving Delaware. That means the state is once again without commercial airline service.

“We are disappointed with the decision of Frontier Airlines ownership and management to discontinue scheduled service at [New Castle] Airport (ILG) prior to the busy summer season,” Delaware River and Bay Authority officials said in a statement. The DRBA manages the airport under an agreement with New Castle County.

The departure from Wilmington comes little more than a year after Frontier resumed flying passengers to and from the airport.

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Keeping track of the start and stop of the company’s back and forth service at the airport is like watching a yo-yo. Frontier started flying out of Wilmington in 2013, only to cut service to almost all destinations about a year later. By 2015, the low-cost carrier ended flights all together.

There was great fanfare at the airport in January 2020, before COVID-19 arrived in Delaware, announcing the return of Frontier flights in May 2020. Those plans were put on hold amid the pandemic, but flights finally did begin in early 2021.

But with Friday’s announcement, Delaware once again regains its dubious distinction of being the only state in the nation without commercial airline service.

“The management and staff of the DRBA continue to believe that scheduled commercial air service can and will succeed at Wilmington Airport,” the Authority’s statement said. “Securing new commercial service for Wilmington – ILG will remain one of the airport’s key goals, but to be clear, air service is only one aspect of the airport’s overall role and value to the community.”

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DRBA officials point to the airport’s use as a corporate aviation hub and role as home for the Delaware Air National Guard. President Biden also makes frequent use of the airport, flying to visit his home near Wilmington.

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