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
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.