Tuesday, January 12, 2016

New low-cost airline lands at Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport

Thayne Klinger, manager of airports with Allegiant Air, announces Tuesday that the low-cost airline will be providing service from Destin-Fort Walton Beach to St. Louis and Cincinnati.

For weeks, Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport has been teasing the community that they had landed “a big one.”

On Tuesday, the airport took that fish off the line to show it off to everyone. Representatives from Allegiant Air were at the airport Tuesday morning for a ceremony announcing the airline would soon begin offering low-fare, non-stop service connecting Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport to two Midwest destinations.

“We’re constantly evaluating new growth opportunities and we’re excited about markets like Destin,” said Thayne Klingler, airports manager for Allegiant Air, after the ceremony. “... It fits what we do. We take people on vacation, places they want to go. We pick places that we don’t have to explain to people why they want to go there.”

Allegiant Air will begin its local service on May 20 with direct flights between Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport and the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. The service will expand the following month when their airline offers direct flights to and from the MidAmerica St. Louis Airport on June 2.

The new flights will operate twice weekly and are expected to bring more than 12,000 additional visitors each year to the Destin/Fort Walton Beach area and generate an estimated $3.5 million annually in total visitor spending, according to Allegiant. Tickets to both destinations are on sale now and can be booked at Allegiant.com.

To celebrate the launch of the new service, Allegiant Air is offering a limited number of one-way tickets for $39 as long as they’re booked by Wednesday for flights on or before Aug. 16. On average, Allegiant fares are less than half the national average at $74 for a one- way ticket, said Kim Schaefer, public relations manager for Allegiant Air.

Allegiant is planning for the local service to be seasonal. The flights to MidAmerica St. Louis Airport are currently scheduled to end for the season Sept. 4, while the flights to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport will end the following day.

If the flights do well, the airline could add more flights in 2017, fly a longer season or add more destinations, said Lukas Johnson, vice president of network and pricing for Allegiant Air.
“It really depends on how these first two routes do,” Johnson said. “It’s based on customer response and how much they like heading down to the Northwest Florida Destination. I think that will tell how much we start up next year.”

Allegiant Air, based in Las Vegas, was founded in 1997 and is a subsidiary of Allegiant Travel Company. The airline operates a fleet of 53 MD-80 aircraft, six Boeing 757-200s, seven Airbus A319s and 10 Airbus A320s.
Johnson said the Airbus A320s would be used to service Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport.

 Mike Stenson, deputy airport director for Okaloosa County, said he and the airport’s staff have been working on bringing Allegiant Air to Okaloosa County for more than eight years. He said it has been a long process of meeting with the airline at industry conferences and at their headquarters to discuss the attributes of the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport and why this would be a good location for them.

“There’s 300 commercial service airports in the country and they’re all competing for the same service,” Stenson said. “It’s a big win not just for the airport, but for the whole community.”

Okaloosa County Commissioners voted in November to spend $3 million over the next three years to market Allegiant. The money will come from the county bed tax reserves.

Tuesday’s announcement about Allegiant starting service locally was part of a much larger announcement the airline made announcing their service expansion. Allegiant also announced two other new destinations for them, Washington D.C./Baltimore and El Paso, Texas.

Between the three new destinations and expanding routes for their existing destinations, Allegiant Air announced 19 new routes nationwide Tuesday.

“We are very excited to announce new routes within the communities we currently serve and to also have the opportunity to introduce our unique brand of ultra-low-cost travel to three brand-new cities,” said Jude Bricker, Allegiant senior vice president of planning, in a news release. “It’s a great way to start 2016 by announcing these new flights, new cities and providing millions of travelers more options to vacation for less this year.”

Story, video, comments and photo gallery: http://www.nwfdailynews.com

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