The government reopens – and that’s good news for Allegiant Air

Allegiant Air

The U.S. government shut down — now completed — was making some folks at Allegiant Air a bit nervous. The discount airline based in Las Vegas plans to start more than 20 new routes between Oct. 25 and Dec. 21. And it turns out there are some new routes an airline cannot start when the government isn’t up and running.

There were, according to airlines spokeswoman Jessica Wheeler, three issues facing some, but not all, of the new flights:

  1. The first issue was the TSA. Allegiant will fly to at least two airports that do not currently have commercial flights, Wheeler said. The TSA screeners are essential employees, and they would have been ready to work. But these airports did not have the proper equipment. According to Wheeler, the equipment is kept at TSA warehouses when not used at airports. And the employees at those warehouses were deemed non-essential employees.
  2. Some of the airports already had TSA equipment, but they were new to Allegiant’s system. And when that happens, Allegiant must file Operations Specifications (Ops Spec) with the FAA. “As long as we have dotted all of our I’s and crossed our T’s it’s a fairly routine process,” Wheeler said. But, of course, it’s a process that requires the FAA to be staffed.
  3. Some of the routes were announced based on the fact that Allegiant is adding three new Airbus aircraft to its fleet this fall. But you can’t just take delivery of the airplane and fly it. “Any new A320 needs to be inspected by the FAA,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler and I chatted on Tuesday, and at the time, she said she wasn’t sure all the new service would go off as scheduled, even if the government reopened this week. No one knew how long it would take the FAA and TSA to resume normal operations.

The good news is that the Los Angeles-Honolulu new flight, scheduled to start Oct. 30 will proceed as planned. Allegiant already has everything it needs for that route. It currently serves both Honolulu and Los Angeles, and it was using 757s — airplanes already in the carrier’s fleet.

 

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Allegiant Air adds twice weekly flight from LAX to Telluride

Is Allegiant Air testing the market at Los Angeles International Airport?

A few weeks after announcing new Honolulu service, the ultra discount carrier moved to add another flight to a popular vacation destination this winter. Allegiant announced it will fly twice a week between LAX and Montrose Regional Airport in Colorado beginning in December. It’s the closest airport of decent size to the popular ski resort of Telluride.

Fares will be as low as $79.99 one way, though like all fare sales, seats are limited. Of course, you don’t want to be like Southwest Airlines, which on Tuesday was hit with a $200,000 fine by federal regulators for not making enough advertised sale seats available.)

United Airlines, through its partner Skywest, also flies twice a week to Montrose during the winter. I did a quick check and a week-long trip from LAX in January would cost $650 on United. Allegiant tickets should be considerably cheaper than United, even if you can’t get the $79 fares.

Historically, as I wrote earlier this month, Allegiant has taken travelers from smaller cities and taken them to vacation destinations. But with this move, Allegiant might be trying to cater to Angelenos who want to ski.

What do you think? Is there a L.A.-based market for Allegiant’s flights?

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Allegiant Air: What made the airline decide to start LAX-HNL?

Allegiant Air is entering the crowded Los Angeles-Honolulu market.

Allegiant Air is entering the crowded Los Angeles-Honolulu market. Above, a picture of one of the airline’s MD-80s. It’s using 757 on the Honolulu route.

Allegiant Air has made a fortune – more than 40 consecutive profitable quarters  - by following a relatively simple business plan: Take travelers from small towns and fly them to the beach or the desert.

Allegiant  has some interesting cities in its route structure, including Belleville, Ill., Bismarck, N.D., Casper, Wy., and Grand Island, Neb. The trick is to tie those cities with places like Los Angeles, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Orlando.

So why, then, did Allegiant recently announce plans to fly from Los Angeles International Airport – one of the world’s busiest airports – to Honolulu. Is this a change in the carrier’s business plan? I wrote about the issue for in Tuesday’s newspaper. 

Here’s what Jessica Wheeler, the airline’s spokeswoman, had to say about the new route. She compared it to the airline’s existing Las Vegas – Honolulu flight, which she said has been performing well. That was one of the first flights Allegiant started between two major cities.

“What we found was we were able to do it at a price point that no one else was able to do,” Wheeler said. “We were able to reach this under served community.”

But Wheeler said it’s wrong to think that Allegiant is changing its  way of doing business. “I think that this is complementary to our business model,” she said, noting that the smaller airports will remain the focus for the airline.

The new LAX-Hawaii service will begin in October. But don’t expect to it last the entire year. Wheeler said Allegiant at first expected demand would be strong year round for Hawaii flights. But instead it found demand was much higher in the winter.

Allegiant does not like flying planes that aren’t full. That’s not profitable. So the airline likely will use its 757s elsewhere next summer. And then maybe it will put them back in Hawaii.

“What we are seeing is Hawaii is a lot more seasonal than we expected,” she said. “It’s looking  a little more like Florida and Las Vegas. But we’re not afraid of seasonality. We are not afraid of being flexible.”

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Allegiant Air to give out free ice cream to celebrate new flight

How badly do you want free ice cream?

Budget airline Allegiant Air will offer free cold treats to the 100 folks on Tuesday to celebrate its upcoming flights between Los Angeles and Honolulu. It’ll be a Bananas Foster Ice Cream and Coconut Almond Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich courtesy of the CoolhausLA truck.

That’s not really all that many people getting free ice cream. But if it’s really important to you, you can find the location of the Coolhaus truck on Twitter. The promotion is scheduled between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Better get there quickly!

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Allegiant Air to fly from LAX to Honolulu beginning in fall; $99 fares

Discount air carrier Allegiant Air will announce plans on Tuesday to fly between Los Angeles International Airport and Honolulu beginning in October.

This will be good news for cost conscious travelers — especially those with enough wiggle room in their schedules to take advantage of Allegiant’s limited schedule.

According to the release we received, Allegiant will offer some one-way fares for $99, far below the going rate in the market, though the airline charges fees for just about everything, including some carry-on bags. Flights can be booked starting Tuesday. The flights will run twice a week starting on Oct 30.

The route is a bit of a change of pace from Allegiant, which usually serves leisure destinations from smaller airports rather than large hubs like LAX. For example, Allegiant has been flying from Boise and Eugene, Ore. to Honolulu, though it’s in the process of cutting some of its Hawaii flights.

Low fares and new flights are generally good for travelers. But Allegiant has had some reliability issues with its overwater 757s, which Brett Snyder, also known as the blogger Cranky Flier described in great detail recently.

From what I understand, flying to Hawaii on 757s is a good deal more complicated than most of the Allegiant’s domestic flying, which is usually done using MD-80s. And Allegiant just starting flying to Hawaii about a year ago, so it’s a new thing for the airline. It would make sense that the airline learned a lot from its first year with Hawaii. But fliers should be aware of what they’re getting into. Last year, a local television station in Denver detailed the plight of a couple who were stranded in Honolulu for more than 48 hours.

Want to learn more about Allegiant? Scott Mayerowitz of the Associated Press profiled the airline last month.

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