Starting in February, when cold temperatures are settled in over the metro-east, there will be another warm destination for travelers to fly to from MidAmerica Airport.
Flights to the southwest Florida destination are scheduled on Thursdays and Sundays beginning Feb. 18.
The new route is one of nine routes the low-cost airline announced on Thursday.
Allegiant, the airport’s only passenger airline, started service this month to Las Vegas from MidAmerica. It already had service to Orlando/Sanford and St. Petersburg/Tampa in Florida.
“We wouldn’t be announcing a new route two weeks on the heels of our (Las) Vegas launch if we weren’t happy being here at this airport,” said Daniel Meier, manager of airports for Allegiant. “We’re looking forward to it, and hopefully it continues to do well and we can look to add more service in the future.
“We saw an opportunity on this route for additional growth,” he said. “Florida has been very successful to us out of MidAmerica Airport. That is another destination we’re looking to grow in Florida, and this is just a natural extension of that.”
Initial one-way flights on the new route are $52, as long as flights are booked by Nov. 23 and trips take place by Aug. 17.
“It appears Allegiant is helping MidAmerica become the Midwest gateway to sunshine,” said St. Clair County Public Building Commissioner Jim Nations.
Last month, the St. Clair Public Building Commission approved buying more fuel so it could be sold to airplane operators.
We wouldn’t be announcing a new route two weeks on the heels of our (Las) Vegas launch, if we weren’t happy being here at this airport. We’re looking forward to it, and hopefully it continues to do well and we can look to add more service in the future.
Daniel Meier, manager of airports for Allegiant
To help the Punta Gorda/Ft. Myers route get off the ground, MidAmerica is waiving landing fees for the route for one year. The discount is expected to be about $11,600.
The airport also is paying $30,000 to Allegiant to help market the new route to Ft. Myers. There was also a $30,000 payment for the new Las Vegas route, according to Tim Cantwell, airport director.
Money is used to promote that route such as through targeted cable television advertisements and rush-hour radio advertisements, Cantwell said.
Meier said the marketing incentive is common.
“A lot of airports will partner and waive fees and add incentives for new airlines and new routes,” Meier said. “They want to partner with the airlines because when an airline starts a new route there is a risk there. It’s a new business venture, and they partner and have some skin in the game to help minimize and mitigate some of the risk the airline takes when they start a new route.”
According to a budget memo to public building commissioners, MidAmerica had 30,000 more inbound and outbound passengers go through the terminal this year as compared to 2014, when it had 31,430 passengers go through the terminal.
The airport expects another 30,000-passenger increase in 2016, according to the budget memo.