Allegiant Tests the Waters At Orlando International On Its Busiest Routes


Allegiant has decided to go back into Orlando International Airport (MCO) for the first time in over a decade. This doesn’t mean the airline is abandoning Orlando/Sanford (SFB), at least not yet, but it does indicate that the airline thinks it’s leaving something on the table by not being at the city’s main airport.

The plan is to roll into three airports from MCO:

  • Allentown/Bethlehem (PA) begins May 16 on Thursdays and Sundays
  • Asheville (NC) gets going on May 3 on Fridays and Mondays with Wednesday and Saturday flights starting May 29
  • Knoxville starts up May 17 on Fridays and Mondays

Why these three cities?

First, these are the largest cities where Allegiant flies from Sanford. They must do well, so now Allegiant figures it can grow its share of the pie by appealing to those who would rather fly into MCO (which is pretty much everyone looking to go visit the Mouse). It also may change the calculus for those in Knoxville and Asheville who may just opt to drive instead today.

Allegiant Orlando/Sanford Departures by Destination FY 2023

Data via Cirium

Second, there is very little competition in these markets. Allentown was last served by Frontier… in 2013. Asheville was previously flown by Spirit but that died at the beginning of the pandemic. And Knoxville does currently have service on Frontier, but it’s winter-only and it’s 3x weekly. The only other city Frontier serves from Knoxville is Denver. Allegiant, meanwhile, serves 14 cities from good ole’ McGhee-Tyson and has a much larger presence than Frontier. It’s probably thinking it can win that battle, if there is one.

And third, well, we need a little backstory here on the last time Allegiant tried this.

This isn’t the first time Allegiant has tried flying from MCO. Back between February 2010 and January 2011, the airline ran an operation to 10 cities from there.

You’ll notice that Allentown and Knoxville were both part of that grand experiment. Allegiant didn’t serve Asheville at all at the time, not starting until Nov 2011.

When Allegiant announced it was retreating from MCO last time, the airline blamed cost issues, saying “…the substantially lower airport operating costs coupled with the more efficient operating environment at Orlando Sanford made this the right decision for Allegiant.” But further down, it also said this:

By consolidating the operations to a single airport in the Orlando area, Allegiant is able to keep costs down and offer its customers the best travel deals. Allegiant currently bases five MD-80 series jet aircraft at Orlando International Airport and as of Feb. 1, 2011, the aircraft will move to Orlando Sanford International Airport to support the additional flights.

That second part, at least, is not a problem this time. These cities are all bases for Allegiant. Airplanes will originate in these cities, fly to Orlando, and then turn right around. There’s no need to pull crews and airplanes in from the SFB base or base airplanes at MCO itself. This is really dipping its toes in the water to see if demand is there.

Allegiant goes in and out of markets regularly. In this case, it’s very low stakes. Fly a handful of flights in and right back out. If it works on Allegiant’s best routes, great, then it can grow. Maybe a base would be established. But if it doesn’t, well, Allegiant can easily walk away like it does from any spoke that doesn’t work out.

Get Cranky in Your Inbox!

The airline industry moves fast. Sign up and get every Cranky post in your inbox for free.

28 comments on “Allegiant Tests the Waters At Orlando International On Its Busiest Routes

    1. Christophe – I don’t know, especially since I imagine there were incentives that MCO offered. But MCO has seen growth in cost per enplanement thanks to the new terminal build. So I imagine if anything it has gotten to be a bigger difference than it used to be.

  1. Allegiant operates from a third airport n the greater Orlando area as well. Along with MCO and SFB, it flies to “Melbourne Orlando International” (MLB) from Allentown (ABE), Nashville (BNA), and Pittsburgh (PIT). MLB, which is on the Atlantic coast an hour’s drive from Orlando, underwent a major expansion to welcome UK travelers buying theme park-and-beach package tours from TUI, who transferred service from SFB to MLB. While the pre-pandemic options from MLB were half a dozen daily regional jet flights to Charlotte on AA, to Atlanta on DL and intermittent service to various “they’re flying where?” destinations on the defunct Elite Airways, MLB has since added Avelo and Sun Country to the list of airlines using it. It’s also the most convenient airport to the large cruise ship operation at “Port Canaveral” which adds both TUI packages and domestic vacation travelers to the mix.

  2. Can we just talk for a minute about the sweet, retro Northwest 757 and DC-9 in the image you chose!?! There’s a blast from the past. Thanks for making me smile seeing those birds this morning.

  3. Something rarely mentioned in announcements like this one, is what passengers will experience in the “new” destination airport.

    Anyone who has flown into/ out of Orlando International (MCO) will be familiar with the interminable lines to get through jammed security stations, crowded gates with not enough seating, crowded trains to and from the concourses and a general feeling that if you stop to get your bearings, you’ll be run over by the masses rushing to get to the parks. By the way… those security lines are nothing to sneeze at. Anybody who doesn’t get to MCO two hours before take-off on a heavy travel day risks waving at their departing plane from the X-ray station.

    That’s not to say MCO is a bad airport. On the face, it’s better than many. But it isn’t nearly big enough to handle 25 Million passengers a year. MCO handles more passengers than EWR, IAH or BOS. But it’s not nearly as big. Passengers might save the 30-60 additional minutes to get from/ to the more remote central Florida airports. But they might wonder if that time was worth it.

    On the other hand, MCO will prepare them for the crowds and lines in the park.

    1. Wonder if G4 will operate from the new MCO terminal? If so, that solves a lot of the problems Former mentioned. At least until that terminal fills up too!

    2. Agree that MCO is overcrowded at times with slow, painful security screenings (at least in Terminal A, B – have not been in new terminal C yet). The problem with Melbourne is the very limited number of airlines and you will need to change planes unless your destination is Charlotte or Atlanta. With more airlines, you have a better chance of getting a nonstop flight from Orlando. So the choice becomes a painful security process at the start of your trip vs. changing planes. I vote for the former even though I live closer to Melbourne than Orlando.

    3. My limited experience in the new Terminal C is very positive, so far. The terminal has ample space for the amount of flights it is currently handling and security is a very quick process. It is much better than Terminal A and B was. On a side note, Terminal A and B may have received some relief now that at least one major opertator B6 is in Terminal C along with cats and dogs.
      The brightline train is a short 5-15 min walk (depending on how fast you move and how familiar you are with the station) from Terminal C while Terminal A & B require people mover ride from the station. This also expands MCO with access to south Florida (not that there isn’t enough flights going there) and potential Tampa service in the future. I hope one day brightline can connect MLB/Port Canaveral in some way as well.

      1. Brightline has not said anything about Melbourne/Port Canaveral plans but the company bought a 33-acre tract of land nearby at the intersection of U.S. Route 1 and State Road 528, the place where the trains slow as the tracks curve from north/south along the coast to east/west toward Orlando. That would be a logical place to put a station serving the cruise port in the future.

  4. Today I learned G4 flies a handful of routes more than 4x/wk. Only five routes from SFB but ABE being 2x daily on 320s is indeed a significant amount of traffic for G4, so even if MCO siphons off some SFB traffic that’s fine; G4 could drop service to 319s and keep the frequency if they care.

    1. I didn’t notice the other Brightline comment until after I posted mine, Selfishly, I’d like to see Brightline add a station at Stuart/Port St; Lucie. My brother lives in Stuart. LOL

      1. I’ll second that. My cousin lives in Port St. Lucie.

        I’d much rather fly to MCO and take Brightline rather than fly to PBI, rent a car, and then have the rental sit in her driveway unused for the duration of my visit.

  5. I just looked up the travel times, using the Magic Kingdom. At 3:15 pm it shows 29 minutes to MCO, and 55 minutes to SFB.

    A seasoned traveler would certainly consider SFB, and could make up the time sitting in security and check in lines (as well as rent cars, etc).

    But of course, the average Alleigant flier is NOT a seasoned traveler. They might fly once every couple of years. They are going to be the type to get to the airport 4 hours early even if it’s a place with zero traffic or lines.

    I think this is just a little test to see if their Sanford traffic would prefer MCO instead. We will see. I personally wish I could go through SFB every time, but I’m not getting on G4 to do it.

    1. Surprising nobody else flies to SFB. I’d think it’s at the point where it might merit hub service from some of the majors but I’m guessing they don’t want to potentially drive their fares down relative to MCO.

      Looks like Sun Country flies there but that’s it for the US. Breeze and Avelo chose MCO which is interesting as they seem like they would have been the best possibilities for other airlines to utilize SFB.

  6. What is the airport on the bar chart between MDT and IND . It looks like USA, which Google and I don’t recognize as an airport. My apologies if I am misreading the chart.

    1. I was just about to say the same thing! That was a sharp livery, but I never understood why the entire tail wasn’t red.

  7. All kinds of nostalgia in that photo…G6 coming back to MCO, NWA in the final livery and the last US Airways livery in the background!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Cranky Flier