Who the F*** is Allegiant Air?

Allegiant, MD80, Who the F*&@ Is

If I went up to 100 people in the US asked them about Allegiant Air, my guess is almost all of them would pose the question asked in the title of this post. I’ve mentioned some of their seemingly random route announcements before, and you’ve probably asked the same question. So, who the f*** IS Allegiant Air?

On the surface, these guys seem like a train wreck. They fly a couple times a week bringing small town folk to places like Las Vegas and Orlando using gas-guzzling MD-80 aircraft. That does not sound like a recipe for success, but believe it or not, these guys are on to something. In fact, even the New York Times (username required) is paying attention these days.
The airline now has 21 planes radiating from its three operational bases in Las Vegas, Orlando/Sanford, and the newest one in St Petersburg/Clearwater. This is a route map only a mother could love.


You might wonder how an airline could fly to all those cities with only 21 planes. Well, it’s because they fly to most of them only 2 to 4 days a week. Most airlines wouldn’t dare fly a schedule like that because it doesn’t help you attract the business traveler, but Allegiant isn’t looking for the business traveler.

Start with their hubs. Vegas, Orlando, and Tampa are all big leisure destinations, so there should be decent traffic from just about anywhere in the country if you fly it twice a week. Think about it from the perspective of a local. If I live in Topeka, Kansas, I can fly to Vegas on Monday or Friday. Well, going out Friday night and coming back Monday afternoon is the perfect gambling weekend. And what are my alternatives?

Well, you have no choices locally – nobody else even flies to Topeka. So you can drive 75 miles to Kansas City and fly out or you can fly Allegiant. Plenty of people are willing to drive 75 miles though, so the key is also making sure you have low fares. Allegiant has extremely competitive low fares and that combined with convenience make them hard to beat in these smaller markets.

The obvious caveat to having low fares is making sure your costs are lower than that. Allegiant has done an excellent job of keeping costs down. While those MD80s burn a lot of fuel, they are downright cheap to acquire on the used market. And who do you think will charge more for landing fees – Topeka or Kansas City? There are some serious cost advantages to flying from these smaller airports. According to the NYT, they also keep crew costs down by having out-and-back routings so that they don’t have to pay for crew hotels or meals on the road. Crew wages are also lower. A 10 year captain will make $105 an hour whereas a 10 year captain for American makes $154 per hour on the same plane.

In addition, they’ve embraced the Ryanair model and have boosted ancillary revenues onboard. Want an assigned seat? That’ll cost you. How about a drink onboard? Fork over the cash. Oh and by the way, if you need a hotel or car rental at your destination, Allegiant will be happy to help and take a commission from the sale.

These guys are doing things right and they’re making it work profitably. If you live in a small town, they either fly there already or they’re thinking about it.

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17 comments on “Who the F*** is Allegiant Air?

  1. Its been fascinating watching Allegiant grow. Major airlines have been casting off smaller routes in an effort to control costs and conslidate leaving some nice markets unserved. All Allegiant needed was someone to point them in the right direction. That happened when Maurice Gallagher Jr(West-Air, Valujet)came on board in 2001. Since then they seem to have grown steadily. The question remains…what happens if (or when) the majors stabilize and want to step back into these markets?

    1. Really, the worst airline ever in the USA. This Las Vegas based airline has more delays per plane than any other airline here. We tried it 4 times and delayed 50% of the time. So terrible there is no alternative. We recommend you stay away, far far away…….

  2. It’s a good question. For the most part, the big guys haven’t ever been in these markets directly (at least not in recent memory). Sure, Topeka probably had hub service from the legacy carriers at some point, but I don’t know if anyone ever served Vegas.

    Meanwhile, Northwest tried to jump into the market with nonstops to Vegas from some of their upper Midwestern strongholds. They’ve announced they’re pulling out, so that clearly didn’t work, even in this booming market the last year.

  3. Many years ago, in the heyday of McDonnell Douglas, orders from American used to go something like this: “We think the MD80 is terrible. Can you cut the price? Ok, then we’ll take another 30.” Now AA has 300 of them. They average 12 to 14 years old. Designed and built when fuel was much cheaper, they are no longer that cheap to fly. Block hour costs for the plane used to be around $1200/hr. This made them much cheaper to run than other planes, and even though they flew a bit slower than any other in AA’s fleet, they were cheap. Nowadays fuel is expensive. Older planes grow heavier (kind of like us humans) and cost more in maintenance. But, there is no apparent replacement in the market for the MD80. Word is with winglets a 737 burns less fuel than an MD80, but not much. Adding winglets to a 737 drives fuel burn down 5% but only half that when compared to an MD80. So why replace the MD80 with more 737s if the saving is marginal? Turns out the MD80 was really a very well designed airplane.

  4. Speaking only for the Bellingham Washington route, they are able to siphon a significant number of travelers from Vancouver BC (city of 2 million). I for one live in a suburb of Vancouver and the drive to Bellingham (minus border waits) is about 45 minutes which is what it would take to drive to Vancouver airport. The price, as everyone has raved about, makes the decision easy.

  5. They don’t just seem like a train wreck. If you have to make any schedule changes or a cancellation, whether due to death, sickness, whatever, they become pickpockets. Make sure you encourage readers to check the “frequently asked questions” that most people would never think of unless the unexpected happens. If you make a change, or cancel, no difference, their fees ofter can be twice as much as the original cost of the flight. My mother-in-law’s hospitalization just cost us more than $600 for flights my inlaws now can’t take and my wife’s return flight she couldn’t take. $600 stolen in my view, and now my wife still has to make arrangements for a flight home from Hagerstown, MD, to Florida. I think these guys are thieves. You have to search for it, but read about their Terms and Conditions, and you’ll think twice about using them.

  6. My wife and her two sisters secheduled a roundtrip trip from Phoenix, AZ to Medford, OR. The flight was delayed because of “mechanical problems”. They finally ordered pizza which was cold and then provided soda pop in very small cups. The outgoing flight should have arrived in Medford at 7:10pm. It did not arrive until about 1:30 AM. It was the last flight at the Medford Airport but they could not quickly unload the luggage so everyone could go home. My wife’s luggage was no where to be found. She was about to report it lost when it came up the baggage ramp. No other baggage had come up the ramp for quite some time. No compensation was offered for being over 7 hours late.

    On the return trip we kept checking the alrline’s website for any delays, etc. None showing they went to the Medford Airport two hours early as the airline demanded only to find out that they had “Mechanical Problems” again. Same yucky, cold pizza and soda. Finally they were told they would depart about 1:30AM. As they went through the baggage check the ticket clerk “Scott” was very rude. One bag was 6lbs overweight. After having them wait over 6.5 hours (the plane did not depart until 3:30AM) nthey wanted to charge for the overweight. They had to repack the bags, which was not easy. AFTER it was rearranged in total oopen view ov everyone in the small ticket area, all closed up and within the weight limit, THEN the TCS came over to the ticket counter and demanded to hand search the baggage. A 62 year old US Citizen has just gotta be a very high risk terrorist threat don’t ya think??? After not finding ANYTHING they could confiscate, they reluctantly ticketed the bag and sent it on its way.

    The plane did not take off until about 3:30AM!!!. Thats about 7.5 hours LATE. All the while their website had not shown that the flight was delayed or anything when I checked it at a little after 11PM (that was about an HOUR after it was supposed to land in Phoenix). I tried to verify flight status with the company but it was closed for the day. They did not have ANY phone numbers with a live person so I could find out what was going on. For all I knew the plane took off and had crashed.

    When they finally landed about 5:30AM (again about 7.5 hours late) they parked the plane quite a ways from the terminal. There were thunderstorms in the area with lightining so they would not allow deplaining (good idea). They waited another half hour while the passengers were hopping mad along with the ground crew that had to turn the plane around and this was making them very late too.

    The skies opened up and really unloaded just as they started to deplane (no covered skyways). Everyone was totally soaked as the distance to the first terminal was a distance away. Then they were drenched again as they have to go from the first building to the baggabe area. Then a third drenching from the baggage area to the parking lot.

    THe first sister ended up having to miss her work day as she normally starts work at 4AM (palne didn’t even arrive until 5:30 and deplane until 6AM and home by 7AM) so one more vacation day wasted.

    The second sister, after being up for 24 hours did make it to work but had to drive an hour to work without proper rest.

    The last sister has fibromyalsia and was in great discomfort with no sleep for 24 hours and all of the totally unnecessary aggravation finally collapsed into sleep within ten minutes of arriving home.

    After all of this (total delay for BOTH flights 14 hours) broke the piggy bank and offered $25 vouchers off the next flight with them. I hope it is made of very low acid paper because it will ROT before we EVER fly this abamanation of an airline again!!!

    Their rates may be low but their service (or lack thereof) is even

  7. Dear allegiant
    We just returned home from our three day stay in Las Vegas.We enjoyed our trip
    so much, flying with allegiant.Every flight we have flown with you,Which is only
    twice, but everyone on both flights were so courteous and nice.We will always fly allegiant.We thank you again for our nice flights.

    1. You sound like an employee. This airline sucks, and your lame post won’t change that. Wow 2 flights made it on time compaired to 1000’s of lat or like the one I was on turned around mid air halfway due to an unsafe plane, and I was unable to take my trip. Thanks alot you bumpkins. Never again.

  8. I was supposed to fly PHX to Peoria Il Friday June 24th 2011. After standing in line to check my bag for an hour (arrived 2 hours before my flight) a younger gentleman came out and shouted into the check in line for all the people flying to Peoria to step out of the line and follow him into baggage claim for an announcement. 15 or so minutes later he finally announced that our flight was canceled and automatically rescheduled the next day for 2pm. He also said they had 12 planes down due to “mechanical” problems which seems to be their go to reason after looking it up online. I was flying back to Peoria for my 20 year HS reunion that started Friday night. With their reschedule I would miss Friday night and the Saturday daytime event and that was unacceptable. It turns out that allegant has NO partnerships with other airlines. What does that mean? They will not put you on a competitors airline if your flight is canceled. My only choice was to take their reschedule and miss my reunion or take a full refund (which I ended up doing). I was then left to the other airlines to purchase last minute airfare at more than double the cost I paid in advance with Allegiant. I will never fly this airline again.

  9. As one earlier comment stated, watch out if anything goes wrong. We showed up at the airport a bit late (30 min before departure) and were told we missed our flight. They seemed to relish teaching us the lesson. No re-booking us , no apologies, no refund, just a telephone number to call. After I took my wife, daughter and two small grand children back home (2 hr drive) I called and waited 40 minutes to speak to an operator. No joy there either. Listen I get it. you should arrive early. The operator said 2 hrs before depart time. The e-ticket said one hour. But who of us doesn’t get delayed from time to time for reasons beyond our control. I’ve never seen an airline who didn’t bust a gut to try to make things work. These guys went out of their way to complicate the process such as to ensure failure (intentionally). They made an example of my 3 yr old granddaughter who was so excited about her first trip to the beach. I hope this message gets out cause we all figure this won’t happen to me. Pray it doesn’t. Had to cancel car rental, baby gear rental, accommodation plans etc. total cost to me $1000. But most significantly….they couldn’t care less. I’ve never seen any company in a customer service industry that cared less about customer service. Karma, get to work.

  10. We have tried this airline from our home city of Vegas to save money only to find out the service is terrible. I mean, really, the seats are so uncomfortable and the delays have been the worst we have ever seen. Twice delayed to Santa Maria to see our family which waited for hours with kids to meet us. I would never ever fly this airline again. I am a weekly flyer and expect some delays a few times a year, but this airline is really bad. My question is do you have the guts to post my conversation given all I read here is good news, can you be more realistic about the downside with these cheap planes and bad delays.

  11. For the most part I have not had to many problems over the years of flying Allegiant
    From Huntington WV to FL But them seem to be getting progressively worse. Because of traffic on the 60 mile drive I arrived an hour before departure The lights at the ticket counter were turned off. and several people standing at the ticket counter. The other passengers said” they won’t let us on”. But we had printed boarding passes.? I found out later that they have limited employees. They shut down the ticket counter an hour before take off and go to the other side and put the people on the plane. I had to buy another ticket. I came this time two and half hours early. Sure enough they shut down the ticket counter loaded us up and we left the airport a half hour before departure time printed on the ticket. I wondered how many passengers they left behind that day PS . I called customer support 30mins or longer later I was able to talk to someone to pay the fee to change my reservation she informed me it can only be done at the airport at the ticket counter But the ticket counter was closed when I arrived to get on the plane.Remember Personal I think it is a way to make money. Leave the people behind what choice do they have but buy another ticket.

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