Courtesy of the Connecticut Airport Authority
Frontier Airlines at Bradley International Airpott (Courtesy of the Connecticut Airport Authority)

WINDSOR LOCKS, CT – Florida flights continue to be a huge driver of traffic at Bradley International Airport, accounting for 20% of non-stop destinations with another Miami option added last month by Frontier Airlines.

Frontier announced the start of its new seasonal flight in November, which is running three days a week until April to tap into the leisure travel market that has been a prolific source of business for Bradley.

“We’re happy to expand our service at Bradley International Airport with nonstop flights to Miami,” Daniel Shurz, senior vice president of Frontier Airlines, said in a statement announcing the flight. “These new flights are an affordable and convenient option for travel to South Florida to explore the unique dining, sunny beaches and endless activities. We appreciate the support of the community and look forward to continuing our outstanding partnership with the airport where we now offer four nonstop destinations.”

The flight is the fourth route the Denver-based discount carrier has added since announcing its return to Bradley about a year ago. It’s also offering non-stop seasonal flights to Denver and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, and year-round non-stop flights to Orlando.

The flights to Miami will run once a day on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, arriving at 7 p.m. from Miami International Airport and heading back south just an hour later for an 11:30 p.m. landing in Florida, airport officials said.

Including the new Miami flight, six of the 30 non-stop service locations are in Florida. Five airlines in total run direct trips to Orlando, Tampa, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and Fort Myers for a total of 17 different options for the three-hour trip to the Sunshine State.

“For most people in the northeast, Florida is always an extremely popular destination,” said Kevin Dillon, executive director of the Connecticut Airport Authority, which oversees Bradley and five smaller airports in the state. “In addition to people taking advantage of the great winter weather, you have Orlando, probably our top Florida market, as a year-round vacation destination.”

Even with the high volume already in place, Bradley officials have recently been seeking direct flights to Jacksonville, which is the last high-population region of Florida the airport can’t get you to on a non-stop flight.

“They’re destinations that are sought after, and that’s the goal of the Connecticut Airport Authority, to deliver a route menu that meets the needs of our business and leisure travelers,” Dillon said. “Where people are looking to fly, that’s where we want service.”

Passenger numbers are difficult to come by. The CAA doesn’t track volume by destination, only by airline. Those kinds of passenger counts wouldn’t be particularly relevant anyway because tracking by destination wouldn’t capture people heading to Florida with connections in Baltimore, Charlotte, or Atlanta, for example.

Still, the airport’s route development efforts have been able to establish some general themes for why people are so consistently seeking convenient ways to get to Florida.

Dillon said the high number of people in Connecticut and Massachusetts with second homes in Florida creates an obvious market, and many are heading to Disney World or the cruise terminals on both Florida coasts. The business travelers in the region can rack up staggering frequent flyer mile totals throughout the year, and they use them to make the three-hour trip to Florida for their downtime, he said.

“We are cost-competitive with the other airports. Our goal is to have the lowest cost per enplanement in the northeast,” Dillon said. “We’ll never have the volume of Boston or New York, but what those two airport systems will never have is the convenience level of Bradley airport.”

He said at last check Bradley’s cost per enplanement, a calculation used throughout the industry in sales pitches to airlines, is lower than airports in Boston, New York, Providence, and Manchester, NH.

The five airlines serving the six Florida airports through Bradley are Spirit, Southwest, JetBlue, American, and Frontier.

The Bradley flight was one of 22 new non-stop flights Frontier began in mid-November. That batch of flights represented major growth in Miami, Las Vegas, and Phoenix, the airline said. Frontier said on Dec. 20 that it will establish a new crew base in Miami.

Bradley’s total passenger counts have been up every year since the CAA became a quasi-public agency in 2013 to take over management of airports from the state Department of Transportation. It served almost 6.7 million passengers in 2018, and as of the end of October was on pace to beat that in 2019.

Connecticut Airport Authority board Chairman Thomas A. “Tony” Sheridan, the director of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, said business and leisure travel demands are being met with continued attention to Florida route development.

“We’re delighted, quite frankly,” Sheridan said. “The staff under [Dillon’s] leadership has done a fantastic job and it’s only going to get better.”

He said often overlooked is the number of people who have made Florida their winter home but still come back often to see their doctors in Connecticut.

“One of the factors that’s probably not discussed often is that we have superb health care in Connecticut,” Sheridan said. “I can’t quantify it but I hear it a lot, that people who move to Florida come back to monitor their health with their doctor or have procedures. Particularly the Yale and Hartford health care systems – those are big drivers for people traveling back and forth to Florida.”

Pete Gioia, economic adviser for the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said travelers find Bradley to be convenient and accessible. People who live in central Connecticut can realistically be in their homes an hour after their plane lands at Bradley, he said.

“It’s direct, it’s a super-convenient airport and you can get in and out quickly,” Gioia said. “It’s a very convenient place for a lot of business people. There’s a lot of companies with operations here that also have operations in Florida, so it’s a great connection.”