Trenton-Mercer Airport finds success in niche market, fastest growing domestic …

EWING — Passenger traffic at Trenton-Mercer Airport grew at a faster rate than at any other domestic air operation in the U.S. last year, according to a report by an airline consulting group.

There were 4,180 passengers in 2012, a 100 percent increase over 2011 when there was no passenger service at the airport, according to a study by Oregon-based Sixel Consulting Group.

Frontier arrived in November 2012, and in 2013, passenger activity increased by 2,715 percent to 117,680.

The company used data from the federal Department of Transportation, which releases a 10 percent sample of all domestic commercial airline tickets sold. The sample is then used to calculate and project the actual number of passengers, president Mark Sixel said.

“Those numbers are based on percentage growth,” he said of Trenton-Mercer’s top rank.

If the estimated passenger numbers were compared with the real figures, passenger traffic would appear to be lower.

Nevertheless, Frontier has found a new market and has been very successful in selling tickets, he said. “It’s a traffic base that has been tapped now and grew quite substantially in the first year.”

Newark-Liberty, up 0.6 percent in domestic passenger traffic, ranked 134 on the list and Philadelphia International, up 0.1 percent, ranked 146.

Across the airline industry, carriers are offering fewer seats, but Sixel said the report shows there are still pockets of growth. Niche carriers like Frontier, he said, see opportunities at smaller and mid-size airports like Trenton.

“There’s a huge base of population between these markets (Philadelphia and Newark),” he said. “They can either compete with everybody at Philadelphia and Newark or put service at Trenton and attract people who don’t want to fight crowds.”

It takes the right carrier to succeed, though, Sixel said.

Frontier attracts customers who will fly out of an alternative airport for a lower price and who are willing to travel on the days and times it operates, he said.

“There’s enough people around Trenton to make it work,” he said.

The nation’s three major airlines — American, Delta and United — aren’t as interested in going after those passengers, he said.

“American is not going to undercut prices to try to run Frontier out of business,” Sixel said. “It’s going to continue to operate out of Philadelphia and Newark the same way it has, which creates opportunities for differentiated products at Trenton to be successful.”

In his analysis, Sixel found that nearly half of the 300 airports that posted year-over-year growth were mostly smaller and mid-size airports that attracted low-cost carriers like Spirit Air, Allegiant Air and Frontier.

Many of the airports near or at the bottom of the list were dominated by Southwest Airlines, which he said has been reallocating aircraft to new markets.

Contact Cristina Rojas at (609) 989-5688 or [email protected]


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