Orlando, We Have Liftoff

SVRA Begins New Nonstop Flights

Posted: November 21, 2012

Passengers board an Airbus A319 aircraft, the first Frontier flight to Orlando International Airport, at ShenandoahValley Regional Airport near Weyers Cave on Tuesday. (Photos by Nikki Fox)
The first Frontier flight from Orlando International Airport lands at Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport Tuesday morning.
Passengers board the first Frontier flight, which is a Airbus A319 aircraft and holds 138 people called “Hector the Sea Otter,” to Orlando International Airport at Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport Tuesday morning.
Passengers check in on Tuesday for Frontier Airlines’ first flight from Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport near Weyers Cave to Orlando International Airport.

WEYERS CAVE — Kerry Kelley remembers well when she stumbled upon a way to save her family money for their annual Thanksgiving trek to Cocoa Beach, Fla.


She was reading a newspaper in a Dunkin’ Donuts in Charlottesville, where she is a fourth-year student at the University of Virginia. Included in it was a story of Frontier Airlines adding nonstop service from Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport, which she had never heard of, to Orlando International Airport.


“It was a lucky find,” said Kelley, 21.


With her mother, Gail, and younger sister, Kristy — both from Chesapeake — she boarded the first plane bound for Orlando from Weyers Cave around 10 a.m. Tuesday.


“We were thrilled to be able to find it,” said Gail Kelley, 54.


SVRA and Frontier announced in August that the airline would offer service from Weyers Cave to Orlando starting this week. Flights will leave every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday morning until January, at which point they will switch Thursday for Friday.


Arrivals from Orlando will occur on those same days.


The airline uses 138-seat Airbus 319 passenger jets that feature 30 channels of DirecTV at each seat for the flights.


The Denver-based airline also flies out of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington and Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport, but doesn’t offer nonstop service to Orlando from either.


SVRA officials say the demand was high locally for nonstop service to Orlando. Frontier offered a promotional ticket for $69 each way — before taxes and fees — from Weyers Cave when the deal was first announced.


One-way flights on Frontier from SVRA for next week were available from as little as $65.90, including taxes, as of Tuesday afternoon. From Dulles International Airport in Northern Virginia, one-stop tickets to Orlando for next week were available for $96, while nonstop tickets were $239, according to Orbitz, a travel website.


Part of the appeal of the Weyers Cave airport for Valley fliers is that it is closer than other options, such as Dulles, and does not charge for parking.


“We were so excited about the airline coming to our area,” said Pansy Wilmott, 82, of Waynesboro.


She visits her daughter in Orlando every year, and usually flies from Richmond International Airport, which she calls an “inconvenience” because of the ground travel involved.


Bob Westgate, the senior director of planning and scheduling at Frontier, said the airline wanted to capitalize on holiday travelers by starting the new service just two days before Thanksgiving. As of Monday night, more than 100 people were booked for the first flight, he said.


Like the Kelleys, Staunton resident Jenna Arneson, 21, was on that departure and destined for Cocoa Beach.


And she was a little happier about it this year.


“Dulles sucks,” she said. “It’s too busy, especially at 8 o’clock in the morning. This is quite the switch-up.”


Contact Preston Knight at 574-6272 or pknight@dnronline.com