Frontier Airlines is bringing its low-cost air fares to the Rio Grande Valley.

Officials with Frontier and Valley International Airport announced yesterday that air passenger service between Harlingen and Denver and Harlingen and Chicago will begin in November.

“I’ll tell you what, I can hardly express my excitement about this big announcement, I can hardly talk,” said Marv Esterly, director of aviation for Valley International.

Flights from Harlingen to Chicago O’Hare Airport will be available on Wednesdays and Saturdays, departing Harlingen at 6:05 p.m. and departing Chicago at 1:54 p.m.

Flights to Denver will be available Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays to Denver International Airport, departing Harlingen at 10:55 a.m. and departing Denver at 6:15 a.m.

All of Frontier’s passengers will fly the 180-seat Airbus 320.

“What that is going to mean is lower fares for the Rio Grande Valley than offered by anyone else,” said Daniel Schurz, Frontier’s senior vice president of commercial operations. “We can bring more passengers to this region, we’re going to bring more tourists into this region.”

About 200 officials, airport and airline executives, business people and media from Harlingen, South Padre Island, Cameron County and Mexico were present for the announcement.

“As the mayor would say, this is another great day for Harlingen, it’s a great day for South Padre Island, it’s a great day for Cameron County and the Rio Grande Valley,” said Harlingen Mayor Pro Tem Mike Mezmar. “So thank you for your confidence in our market and our demographics.”

A significant emphasis in yesterday’s announcement involved South Padre Island. Mayor Dennis Stahl said Island officials have been involved with Harlingen, county and airport officials in negotiations with Frontier for the previous eight months.

“We’re just so excited that Frontier is bringing its low-cast fares to this area,” Stahl said. “We appreciate it, and we’re going to fill up those planes.”

The Frontier announcement is just the latest good news for Valley International.

Just days ago airport officials announced the airport’s biggest project since 1990, a $15.5 million upgrade to replace 1930s-era concrete on taxiways and aircraft parking areas.

In May the airport opened a state-of-the-art, $3.8 million aircraft fire and rescue facility. The airport is currently undergoing a $1.2 million project to rip out the original late 1980s ceramic tile in the terminal building and replacing it with blue and gray epoxy terrazzo.

The airport also added new air chillers and fan coil units, a new HVAC system which has cut utility costs by 30 percent and new LED lighting. A new roof is coming next year.

Frontier Airlines becomes the fifth air passenger service at Valley International, a group which includes Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, Sun Country Airlines and Delta Airlines.

Valley International also is an air cargo hub for DHL, Fedex and Southwest Cargo.

By RICK KELLEY Staff Writer