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First commercial flight in years takes off from New Castle airport

Frontier Airlines has officially restarted commercial air service at the Wilmington-New Castle Airport.

The first flight bound for Florida took off from the New Castle tarmac at just before 2 p.m. Thursday. And with it, Delaware’s latest run as the only state in the country without a commercial airport came to an end. 

“[Commercial service] really just floats all the boats,” said Delaware River and Bay Authority Deputy Executive Director Stephen Williams at a press event inside the airport Thursday. “It’s the one thing in this community that allows those folks that drive up and down Rt. 13 every day to use the airport.”

Frontier is offering commercial flights between the Wilmington-New Castle Airport (ILG) and Orlando International Airport (MCO) on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.


“Orlando is by far the biggest destination from this region, and that’s why we’re starting service today to Orlando,” Frontier’s senior vice president of commercial Daniel Shurz said Thursday. “It’s obviously a great warm-weather destination, it’s got great attractions. Florida is open for business.”

Shurz says Frontier is taking COVID precautions, like temperature checks.  

The Wilmington-New Castle Airport has hosted commercial flights before—most recently in 2015. Frontier pulled out that year because company officials said the operation wasn’t profitable.

Shurz says the company is in a better place now.

“Since then we’ve significantly reduced our costs,” he said. “So we believe we’re more competitive in the market. We’re also better known in the region.”

The Wilmington-New Castle airport, leased and operated by the Delaware River and Bay Authority (DRBA), was recently federalized in preparation for the return of commercial services. That process includes setting up security equipment where TSA agents will screen passengers. 

DRBA Executive Director Thomas Cook said Thursday that the Authority invested close to $15 million in renovations, including additional parking, a new bagging check and gate area seating.

“As you can see, it takes a significant financial commitment to run a successful airport,” Cook said. 

DRBA’s 30-year operational lease on the airport expires in 2025.  A task force recommended last year that the county not renew the least with DRBA and instead put it out to bid. New Castle County Council voted in May to authorize County Executive Matt Meyer to serve DRBA a notice of non-renewal.

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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