Allegiant all-in at Gateway with nonstop flights to Vegas - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

Allegiant all-in at Gateway with nonstop flights to Vegas

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Posted: Monday, September 26, 2011 10:07 am | Updated: 3:52 pm, Thu Sep 29, 2011.

Allegiant will fly from Mesa to Las Vegas in November, making the gambling mecca the largest city the airline serves from the East Valley.

The airline is betting big in its Las Vegas plans.

Allegiant plans six trips a week — the most frequent service among the 30 cities it currently serves from the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. Allegiant flies to most destinations just twice a week.

“Six flights a week for us is pretty large,” Allegiant spokeswoman Kristine Shattuck-Cooper said.

Allegiant announced its newest destination at the Mesa airport on Monday with a bit of Vegas-style flair, having an actual showgirl stand among dignitaries. The service will begin Nov. 17, with one-way introductory fares as low as $30. Flights are scheduled for Monday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday into McCarran International Airport.

Allegiant began service in Mesa in 2007, serving smaller Midwestern cities that don’t have nonstop service by any airlines flying out of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The Las Vegas service is the first direct competition Gateway will have with Sky Harbor.

Mesa Mayor Scott Smith said Allegiant plans to add larger cities like Las Vegas, and perhaps some routes that compete with service at Sky Harbor.

“They have some fairly big plans to expand their other offerings,” Smith said.

The only surprise in the Las Vegas announcement was that it didn’t come sooner, said Robert Brinton, president of the Mesa Convention and Visitors Bureau. The Las Vegas-based airline already brings its planes there for maintenance, he said. And years’ worth of surveys have found Las Vegas is among the top destinations that locals wanted access to.

The new competition shouldn’t hurt airlines at Sky Harbor, Brinton said. Research has shown Allegiant’s low fares expanded the number of people who fly from the Valley.

“One-third of passengers said they would not have flown if it weren’t for Allegiant, so we’re not cannibalizing,” Brinton said.

This is the second attempt to offer service from Gateway to Vegas, following Vision Air offering turboprop service in 2006. Vision ended the flights because of internal issues, not because of weak demand, Brinton said. Also, Vision flew into North Las Vegas.

Passengers who take the Vegas flights will also notice more construction at Gateway. The airport learned Monday it received a $4.8 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to add two additional gates and 30,000 square feet of space to its terminal. The addition will boost annual passenger capacity from 900,000 to 1.2 million.

The work will expand the airport to 10 gates and is scheduled to be completed in November 2012. Another expansion to 12 gates is slated to open in 2013.

Gateway is serving nearly 1 million passengers a year and should grow by 10-20 percent in 2012, said Lynn Kusy, the airport’s executive director.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6548 or ggroff@evtrib.com

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