Saturday, November 21, 2015

Allegiant, JetBlue will offer new flights from Richmond International Airport (KRIC) to Orlando next year

RICHMOND — Less than a month after Southwest Airlines said it would end its nonstop flights from Richmond to the Orlando, Fla., market, two low-cost carriers have announced plans to fill the void to one of the airport’s most popular destinations.

Allegiant, which entered the Richmond market in February and so far flies only to Tampa Bay, announced Thursday that it will add twice-a-week flights to Orlando Sanford International Airport starting in April, two days after the Southwest flight to Orlando International Airport ends. Orlando Sanford airport is a secondary airport located nearly 18 miles northeast of downtown Orlando.

And earlier this week, JetBlue said it would add a second daily flight to the main Orlando airport starting in May.

Last year, Allegiant stopped offering flights from Charlottesville to Sanford International Airport less than 100 days after the airline chartered its first flight between the locations.

Orlando consistently ranks in the Richmond International Airport’s top five destinations. Last year, it ranked third behind Boston and Atlanta with about 185,000 travelers.

“In this case, we lost a daily flight that we considered to be important. We saw that capacity quickly replaced by JetBlue’s additional flight and the new flights to be offered by Allegiant,” said airport spokesman Troy Bell. “It keeps Orlando as a very competitively priced market from Richmond with a good service pattern.”

George E. Hoffer, a transportation economist at the University of Richmond, said the new flights will bring price competition to the market and especially benefit non-business passengers, who have the most elastic demand.
“It is encouraging that Allegiant saw the Tampa service as remunerative enough to expand to Orlando,” said Hoffer, who noted the additional Allegiant and JetBlue flights more than make up for the seat loss of the Southwest flight.

Allegiant is offering one-way trips to Orlando for as low as $29 for customers who buy tickets by Monday. The Las Vegas-based airline claims that most of its flights typically cost about half the price of other airlines. It flies out of 109 markets.

An Allegiant spokeswoman said the success of both Richmond routes will determine whether it expands its offerings here.

“We’re pleased to enable Richmond travelers to visit this popular Florida destination and fill the void for low-cost, nonstop service this spring,” said Jude Bricker, Allegiant senior vice president of planning, in a news release.

Allegiant flies into St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport.

JetBlue reported 46 percent growth over last year in the airport’s most recent traffic report. The airline has seen its Richmond market share grow from 8 percent last year to 11 percent, while other airlines have remained relatively flat or have seen slight losses.

“I think both will look at more opportunities to expand. A lot of it will depend on how they’re doing,” said consultant and industry veteran Kevin P. Healy, a senior vice president with the consulting firm Campbell-Hill Aviation Group LLC in Arlington County. “The growth of the airport is probably going to reflect the sort of competition that will continue in the U.S.”

Healy said that while the domestic U.S. market has not grown much, its mix has changed tremendously.

“Fortunately for Richmond, Richmond reflects that mix well,” he said. “Richmond has really bucked the trend of a lot of the rest of the nation.”

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