Yesterday, the East Valley (that’d be Mesa/Chandler/Gilbert/Tempe – east of Phoenix) was jumping with joy after learning that their long-suffering airport, STBPMGA (that’s Soon-To-Be Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport), would become Allegiant’s fourth base after Las Vegas, Orlando/Sanford, and St Petersburg/Tampa. Today, Ft Lauderdale received word that they’ll be base #5.
Phoenix-Mesa Gateway (as I believe Williams Gateway will be renamed soon, probably thanks to the urging of Allegiant) is a former Air Force Base that has been trying to attract flights for a long time with spotty success. Yesterday’s announcement that Allegiant will start flights on October 25 was a big win for the airport. I’m guessing Allegiant is getting a very sweet deal here.
Ft Lauderdale is a different kind of thing. The airline’s last 3 bases have been at secondary airports, so this is a return to a main airport, unless you count Ft Lauderdale as secondary to Miami. Flights here begin November 14, and while I’m sure Allegiant got a good deal (they won’t fly anywhere unless they do), it would surprise me if they could squeeze much out of FLL. The airport already has ample low cost service from JetBlue, Southwest, AirTran, and hometown airline Spirit. They also have somewhat of a crowding problem, but Allegiant’s low frequency service – a couple times a week per destination – likely won’t hurt that much. Besides, Allegiant almost never competes with existing airline service since they fly to much smaller cities.
So where are they going from these new bases? Well they’re turning this into a big guessing game. We do know that Phoenix-Mesa will get flights to 13 cities already in the Allegiant network, none of which have nonstop service from the Phoenix area currently. Ft Lauderdale will see service to 12 cities, one of which will be new to the Allegiant network, and I’m guessing that none of these will have nonstop service currently either.
The airline will slowly start trickling announcements out over the next month, and they’ve got a countdown clock on their website to show you when the next one will be announced.
If I had to take a guess, I’d expect to see a bunch of Snowbird Specials launched here just in time for the peak winter season. For Phoenix, maybe we’ll see places like Duluth and Rochester (Minnesota), Cedar Rapids (Iowa), Rockford and Peoria (Illinois) and Lansing (Michigan). Ft Lauderdale? Maybe a little further east with some overlap. Youngstown or Toledo (Ohio)? Maybe Ft Wayne and South Bend (Indiana)?
My best guess is that they don’t even fully know the list. While they have a pool of cities in the running, those could change depending upon who gives the airline the best deal. Allegiant is known for being a hard bargainer, and if Rockford can outdo Cedar Rapids, that might make the difference.
Having the countdown clock just feeds into that. It’s like watching the lottery balls come up every week, hoping you have a match. Come down on your costs and tick, tick, tick, tick, you could have your name in lights and an old MD80 landing on your runway.
Either way, it’s good news for people in small towns all over the US. They continue to get service, though infrequent and with no frills, to places they’d never have been able to fly nonstop before. I’m just waiting to see how long it takes before another airline stops finding this amusing and starts trying to compete.