Allegiant Air flying to Vegas, baby!
Allegiant Air is set to to have flights to Las Vegas out of MidAmerica Airport. Flights for Las Vegas begin in November, and tickets are available starting at $49.
After a special meeting of the St. Clair County Public Building Commission, officials for the county-operated MidAmerica Airport and airline officials announced the new destination.
St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern said, “it’s another great day for MidAmerica Airport.”
The Belleville-to-Las Vegas route is one of 17 new routes across the country announced by Allegiant Air on Tuesday. All but one of the routes are scheduled to begin in November.
Eric Fletcher, the manager of airports for Allegiant, said the low-fare airline hopes to expand flights in the future beyond Tuesday’s addition at MidAmerica.
“We’re real excited,” Fletcher said. “The community continues to embrace our service. We’ve had people clamoring for seats. We’ve been selling out flights earlier and earlier.
“We have the resources in Vegas to do it,” Fletcher added. “As I said three years ago, we’re hoping not to be done yet. We have bigger plans even beyond this.”
The airline even is offering a special one-way fare of $49 to Las Vegas from MidAmerica. People would have to buy the tickets by Friday, and travel by Feb. 16.
Fletcher said during the announcement that tickets were already being booked on the 166-seat McDonnell Douglas MD-80 airplanes Allegiant plans to use for the route.
“The community and local leaders have been pitching us endlessly on this destination,” Fletcher said. “The answer we’ve been giving is we agree, we agree, we agree. We just have to find the right time.”
Flights to Las Vegas are planned to take place twice a week. Depending on the week, flights are predominantly scheduled on Mondays and Fridays, according to the Allegiant website.
Allegiant Air, the airport’s lone airline, currently offers flights from MidAmerica to destinations in Florida, including Orlando/Sandford and Tampa. However, flights to Tampa/St. Petersburg are not scheduled to take place from Aug. 21 through Oct. 8. They are scheduled to resume on Oct. 9.
The slow-down is common, especially for newer routes, Fletcher said.
“(At) back-to-school time, people are less likely to go to Florida,” Fletcher said. “But the Tampa/St. Petersburg route has gone so well. It has grown beyond two flights a week around Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
Allegiant first operated out of MidAmerica from 2006 to early 2009 with flights to Orlando and Las Vegas. The airline returned in 2012 with flights only to Florida.
Airport Director Tim Cantwell is estimating the new route will bring in an additional $66,000 to the airport in the first year and $77,000 in the second year of running the flights.
The St. Clair County Public Building Commission granted a first-year discount on landing fees for the new route, which is expected to be about $11,000.
“It’s a key for us to keep our costs low, and we have the ability as a joint-use airport to keep our costs low,” Cantwell said.
Recently, the county’s Public Building Commission has been showing signs of increased usage at the airport. Last month, the commission agreed to work with Roy-El Catering to provide concessions at the airport. It also approved buying more jet fuel than originally budgeted so it can re-sell the fuel at retail prices.
Until 2012, when Allegiant returned, MidAmerica had no airlines flying from the airport for three years.
The $330 million airport, which has a joint-operating agreement with Scott Air Force Base, opened in 1998 and was built with a combination of federal, state and local dollars.