Knoxville newest airline took flight on Tuesday morning. Frontier Airlines departed on a non-stop flight from McGhee Tyson Airport to Denver International at around 9:30 a.m.
"I travel every single week," said Jeanne Arnwine of Morristown. "I did not realize this was the first flight for Frontier out of Knoxville. I booked this trip a few months ago and I had no idea, so this is wonderful."
Arnwine and other passengers on the debut flight were greeted with free food and entertainment. The Knoxville Zoo brought several exotic animals to the departing gate to go along with Frontier Airlines' wildlife motif.
"I've never seen this in any airport and I've been in a lot of them," laughed Arnwine.
Arnwine said the real treat on Tuesday was a faster flight to the western United States.
"Usually I go U.S. Air and I have to go through Charlotte. It takes forever. This really saves a lot of time," said Arnwine. "Oh my goodness, it's also half the cost. This means I can take more trips out west to meet with customers, so it will actually improve the quality of my job. It is very exciting for Knoxville to have this."
Travel agents with AAA said the low-cost airline is already having an impact on other air carriers' fares to western locations.
"McGhee Tyson is an underserved airport. Underserved airports have high fares due to a lack of competition," said Cliff Van Leuven, vice president of Frontier Airlines. "Frontier comes in and we can take you to Denver and all points west. You'll see a dramatic reduction in fares."
Knoxville mayor Daniel Brown spoke during the ribbon cutting ceremony. Brown said he believes Frontier Airlines bringing non-stop flights to Denver will help the area attract businesses that serve the western United States.