A small California-based airline that has had as many downs as ups hopes for smoother air when it starts daily non-stop flights from Colorado Springs to Las Vegas, beginning Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14.
Allegiant Air, based in Fresno, California, will offer the round trip every day except Saturday, said company spokesman Mark Peterson.
“Our most effective advertising is word-of-mouth,” said Allegiant Chairman Maury Gallagher. That Allegiant has a 96 percent on-time flight record will get around, Gallagher said.
The airline was formed in 1997, is certified by the Department of Transportation to fly scheduled and charter flights, and also has authority for charter service in Mexico and Canada. Allegiant is one of several small airlines launching service from Colorado Springs in recent months.
A couple of Allegiant’s well-known charter passengers include President George W. Bush (when he was campaigning for the presidency) and former Senator Bill Bradley.
The Colorado Springs – Las Vegas jaunt is presently the only non-stop service to Las Vegas available from the Colorado Springs Airport, said Gallagher. He added that it is also the only same-plane direct service between Colorado Springs and Fresno.
“Each of these communities are recognized as attractive destinations for both leisure and business travel,” Gallagher said. “Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region is a thriving community with an abundance of recreational opportunities and visitor attractions.”
The company is working to put together travel and vacation packages to include trips to ski resorts, Peterson said.
Allegiant’s strong points, Gallagher said, are the friendliness of its employees and the fact that its record of on-time flights is second to none.
“One of the things I really want to stress is our people,” Gallagher said. “We are genuinely friendly. I know all of these people… I go back as far as 20 years with some of them.”
The venture is obviously a welcome one for the local Springs airport, which has seen business plummet since the terrorist attack in New York last year.
“The Colorado Springs Airport welcomes Allegiant’s new flight to Las Vegas,” said Gary Green, Director of Aviation at the airport. “I am sure the response from the community will not be disappointing… historically there has been a strong demand for Las Vegas service out of Colorado Springs, and this will be a welcome addition to help replace the service to Vegas we once had,” Green said.
It has been a bumpy ride for Allegiant in the past few years. Allegiant started as a charter service in Fresno, California, and expanded to become a regular carrier. In December 2000 it suspended all flights except the Fresno – Las Vegas route, citing high fuel costs. A short time later it filed for bankruptcy protection.
Last June a federal bankruptcy judge approved a restructuring plan, letting Gallagher, then an investor, take control.
Gallagher is no stranger to the airline industry. He owns a jet-leasing company, and was one of the founding partners of WestAir Airlines, and also the infamous Florida-based ValuJet. A ValuJet crashed into the Florida everglades a few years ago, killing everyone aboard. ValuJet eventually ceased operations, becoming AirTrans Airways.
Allegiant’s fleet consists of three aircraft, a DC-9 Super 21, and a pair of MD-87 jets. “The aircraft were selected based on their operating characteristics, reliability, and suitability for the airline’s scheduled and charter flight operations,” Peterson said. The DC-9 seats 83, and the MD-87’s seat 130 each.
Allegiant is a “ticketless” airline, with customer seat selection on all flights. Their selling point is its low-cost fares.
Service between Colorado Springs and Las Vegas will be as low as $109 one way, Peterson said. Standard coach fare will be $249, and first class fare is set at $349. Fares to Fresno are the same as the Las Vegas fares. Tickets are available through travel agents, and also may be purchased online through the Official Airline Guide at www.oag.com.
The Colorado Springs-Las Vegas route has “historically been a strong one,” Gallagher said. If the market develops as expected, Allegiant has the capacity to add another daily flight.
Allegiant has no plans to expand to a major airline, Gallagher said. But, if all goes according to plans Allegiant may start flights to Wyoming.
“The focus is in making money,” Gallagher said. “We have no outside investors so we have to make Allegiant work.”