Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Allegiant Air shift from Burlington could affect Ogdensburg

OGDENSBURG — A decision by low-cost carrier Allegiant Air to end flights to Vermont this spring could allow the company to focus on enticing more Canadian travelers into Plattsburgh and Ogdensburg, according to Gene Richards, director of aviation for the Burlington International Airport.

Allegiant Air, which has serviced the Burlington International Airport since 2014 with direct flights to Florida, will cease service at the facility on March 4.

Burlington is also serviced by American Airlines; United Airlines; Jet Blue; Delta Airline and Canadian carrier Porter Airlines.

Allegiant Air’s decision to end its Burlington route was based in part on the company’s inability to grow its market share from its current 2 percent at the airport, according to Mr. Richards. He said during recent lease negotiations involving Allegiant Air and the other carriers servicing Burlington, it became apparent to Allegiant officials that the increased market share they were hoping for wouldn’t materialize.

“The airline industry, meaning the traditional airline industry, won that negotiation,” Mr. Richards said. “And the reason that they won it is that they had four seats at the table.”

Mr. Richards said the other airlines servicing Burlington were willing to let Allegiant increase its share of the market to 5 percent over time, a number considered insufficient by the company.

“What it came down to was, they wanted more market share in Burlington and the industry wasn’t willing to give it to them,” Mr. Richards said.

While some passengers now taking Allegiant flights in and out of Burlington will be inconvenienced, Mr. Richards said the Plattsburgh and Ogdensburg airports could become more appealing to Canadian travelers.

He said Plattsburgh is already geared toward serving the Montreal market, with the bulk of its passengers originating from the area. He said by comparison, only about 17 percent of Burlington’s airport travelers hail from Montreal.

Mr. Richards said Allegiant Air’s decision to vacate the Burlington market could allow the low-cost carrier to focus more on other airports, including Ogdensburg. He also said Burlington, Plattsburgh and Ogdensburg could all see a spike in usage from north of the border with positive fluctuations in the Canadian dollar.

“What will happen for all three of us, when that Canadian exchange turns around, when you see oil prices go up, you are going to see the exchange rate go to our favor,” Mr. Richards said. “Then all of those folks are going to start trickling down to us and you are going to see all three airports thrive.”

He said Allegiant Air’s decision to commit to Ogdensburg is a positive development for the city and for the surrounding region.

“I was very pleased to hear that you folks had received Allegiant service,” Mr. Richards said. “It is a beginning, it is a new day for you folks. To have that airport be serviced by them, it gives you leverage, it gives you a starting conversation with other airlines.”

Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority Director Wade A. Davis said airport officials in Ogdensburg are still tabulating end of year usage figures. However he said business has been brisk.

“OGS continues to serve the north country market extremely well and you will notice a large number of U.S. and Canadian residents taking advantage of the Allegiant and Cape Air flights on a regular basis,” he said “We’ve heard nothing but positive feedback from the U.S. and Canadian community regarding the airport.”

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