Allegiant plans 'hiatus' of flights out of Mascoutah

News-DemocratJuly 2, 2013 

Allegiant Airline flights from MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Mascoutah to Orlando, Fla., will take a "hiatus" for more than seven weeks due to an expected lull in traffic this fall, according to an airline spokeswoman.

The beginning of the school year coupled with hurricane season in Florida decreases the number of passengers who want to fly into Orlando, Allegiant spokeswoman Jessica Wheeler said. The uncertain number of passengers makes it difficult to ensure the low fares the airline is known for, according to Wheeler.

"This is a typical hiatus taken when there are particularly low flights during this time period," Wheeler said. "We pride ourselves in having flexible flights with low-fares and one way we do that is through eliminating flights during low periods."

The roundtrip flights to Orlando are the only passenger service operating out of MidAmerica and are regularly scheduled on Sundays and Thursdays.

After a similar suspension of flights in September 2008, Allegiant announced the airline would quit flying out of MidAmerica the following January in 2009. Allegiant resumed flying out of MidAmerica last November.

The 52-day break in flights will begin in August. Similar flight suspensions have been ongoing at MidAmerica since at least 2007.

The last departing flight out of MidAmerica prior to the hiatus will be Sunday, Aug. 11, then flights are scheduled to begin again on Thursday, Oct. 3. Fares for local flights to and from Orlando range between $54 and $133 this fall, according to Allegiant's website.

While the dates vary slightly, similar breaks in Allegiant flights to Orlando are scheduled at 20 other airports in 14 states. In Illinois, flights to Orlando from airports in Rockford, near Chicago, and Moline are canceled.

The nearest Allegiant flights to Orlando scheduled during the hiatus at MidAmerica depart from Bloomington, Ill., and Branson, Mo.

The airline markets itself as a low-cost alternative to larger airlines. Overall, the total average price of airfare for customers was $145 while the airline's operating expense per passenger was about $117 in the first quarter of this year.

St. Clair County officials continue to push for additional passenger service out of the airport and hired a consulting group in February to help expand such service.

The airline typically has 90 percent of a plane's capacity filled, according to a company financial statement. As a whole, the airline has seen an increase in passengers and revenue in the first financial quarter of 2013 in comparison to 2012.

About 4.5 percent more people flew on Allegiant in 2013 compared to the same quarter in 2012. More than 1.88 million people flew on Allegiant in the first three months of this year, according to the airline.

Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at dkelley@bnd.com or 618-239-2501.

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