Allegiant resumes passenger flights to Florida out of MidAmerica

News-DemocratOctober 18, 2013 

Allegiant Airline flights from MidAmerica St. Louis Airport to Florida have resumed after a seven-week hiatus and planes are full of passengers, according to St. Clair County officials.

Flights were suspended from Aug. 11 until Oct. 3 due to an expected lull in traffic, Allegiant spokeswoman Lindsay Hernquist said. The round-trip flights to Sanford, Fla., near Orlando, Fla., are the sole passenger service out of the Mascoutah-based airport.

"We typically do that hiatus because families have kids back in schools and aren't traveling as much, and also it is hurricane season in Florida," Hernquist said. Allegiant shoots for 90 percent capacity on all flights to ensure the low-cost airfare the company is known for, Hernquist said.

Allegiant continues considering new destinations for MidAmerica passengers, Hernquist said.

"We are always assessing new routes, new possibilities," Hernquist said. "We will keep going with Orlando flights and keep our options open."

Allegiant has had "very good activity" since resuming flights with full airplanes departing MidAmerica, MidAmerica Director Tim Cantwell told members of the county's Public Building Commission on Thursday. The appointed members of the commission oversee the county-owned airport.

"Full airplanes are going down there but are not full coming back because of a little disparity in people going down for snowbird time," Cantwell said, referring to Illinois residents staying in Florida to avoid the Midwestern winter. Departing flights have about 150 passengers, he added.

Suspensions in fall flights have been ongoing at the airport since at least 2007. After such a suspension in September 2008, Allegiant announced the airline would quit flying out of MidAmerica. Flights resumed at MidAmerica in November 2012.

Cantwell said Allegiant flights are scheduled at the airport through April and discussions are underway to continue flying through the spring.

The airline's passenger service received help from an advertising campaign coordinated by the Tourism Bureau ILLINOISouth on behalf of the airport, Cantwell said.

"Recent marketing efforts by the Tourism Bureau increased website hits by about 1,500 percent," Cantwell said. "It was through the roof. I just had to not look at those stats anymore because it was a real good push they did on a number of things."

Tourism Bureau Executive Director Jo Kathmann said the marketing campaign focused upon the convenience and "shockingly reasonable" prices of Allegiant flights at MidAmerica.

"We wanted to bring into view of the public MidAmerica has no lines, no hassle and free parking," Kathmann said. "What a joy it is to park, walk in and fly out."

The Tourism Bureau will continue advertising the airport on radio and billboards through December. The Tourism Bureau, based in Swansea, promotes events, businesses and services in a 19-county area stretching from Illinois to Indiana.

MidAmerica also received a surprising boost from advertising efforts out of Springfield, Ill., according to Commission Chairman Rich Sauget. Allegiant plans to begin flying from the Abraham Lincoln Capitol Airport to Sanford on Nov. 22.

"It was interesting how Springfield was advertising their Allegiant flights and we're feeling like it's been helpful to us," Sauget said. "The fact that more people are aware of Allegiant."

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

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