Allegiant Air is fast broadening its horizons, quite literally, by taking on New York.
The budget carrier has gained a foothold in capacity-filled Newark Liberty International Airport, where Allegiant believes it can generate new passenger traffic by offering low fares, starting from $39.
Lukas Johnson, the leisure airline’s Vice President of Planning, said in a telephone interview with Today in the Sky that they believe Newark will soon be a recreation hotspot. “We think we provide something really unique. At Newark, we’ll be the first ULCC,” he said, referring to the “ultra low-cost carrier” brand that Allegiant, Spirit and Frontier market themselves, reports USA Today.
Newark is one of three destinations on Allegiant’s route map as part of the airline company’s 12-route expansion plan announced Tuesday. Allegiant is also looking to Denver and Ogdensburg, a border town in New York. When these services begin operations, Allegiant will be flying to 117 destinations within the United States.
But it’s Allegiant’s access to Newark that is the breaking news from its expansion announcement.
Newark Liberty is one of New York City’s three big area airports, but access for “new entrant” airlines has been seemingly impossible in recent years. The conditions became much more favorable in April when the Department of Transportation announced that it would loosen “slot” restrictions at Newark for flights after October 30.
Budget airline JetBlue has likewise confirmed new Newark flights, transferring six of its existing Florida flights from New York LaGuardia to Newark. The shift allowed JetBlue to add more flights to Boston from LaGuardia, where strict slot restrictions remain in place.
However, Allegiant will become the first new all-US airline in Newark following the easing of regulations. It still presented several challenges for the carrier, including maneuvering its way into the lineup at Newark.
Johnson said, “Gates are at a premium,” and it required careful steps to enable them to find space in the congested airport’s flight schedule. “The afternoons and evenings are still very constrained at Newark,” he said, but Allegiant’s flexibility and leisure-driven schedule allowed the airline to find more available time slots.
Allegiant will begin service at Newark on November 16, with nonstop flights to Cincinnati and Savannah. Two more routes to Asheville, North Carolina, and Knoxville, Tennessee will be added on November 17.
Allegiant’s schedule is limited, though. “We’re just going to have two arrivals and departures per day, and that’s mixed across four markets,” Johnson said. “We wanted to make sure we could create a robust schedule…rather than just trying to do a land grab, which I think is what people have traditionally done in these congested airports.”
This reflects Allegiant’s strategy across the rest of its flights, where the airline only offers a few flights per week between most of their serviced areas. Allegiant will fly to Cincinnati and Asheville four times a week from Newark, and to Knoxville and Savannah three times a week. Still, those flights are a higher frequency for Allegiant’s New York market.
Johnson said, “It’s the New York metro area and we believe we’ll fill those seats up.” He added that it’s the biggest airline market in the country and the largest in tourism, which is sure to drive in demand for the prices Allegiant is offering:
$39 one way to Cincinnati and Savannah, and $41 to Asheville and Knoxville, with an additional $8 per passenger for credit card purchases.
Allegiant’s two other new destinations have an entirely different environment. From Denver, Allegiant will begin service to Montrose Regional Airport, near the Colorado ski resort Telluride, on December 14 through March 25, with two flights a week.
In its third new destination, near the US-Canada border, Allegiant will begin flying from Ogdensburg to Fort Lauderdale and Orlando-Sanford. This is part of the airline’s border strategy to convince bargain-seeking Canadians who are willing to drive across the border for cheaper domestic US flights, which have much lower costs than international flights from Canada.
Ogdensburg is around 60 miles south of Ottawa, the Canadian capital city with a population of 1.2 million. It’s also about 100 miles away from Montreal, Canada’s second-largest metro area. Allegiant flies to nine other cities where a chunk of passengers is Canadian.
In other plans, Allegiant will add five more routes, three to its focus cities in California and two new routes to Florida, including a nonstop flight from Destin/Fort Walton Beach to Las Vegas.
One of the airline’s strategies is to look into nonstop service for cities with few direct connections, such as the new Oakland-El Paso route. Johnson said, “El Paso’s got a metro area of almost a million people, and there’s no nonstop service to the Bay Area. To us, not only is it underserved from a low-cost price-point, it’s underserved completely.”
Apart from the new routes, Allegiant is also working to improve service on three existing seasonal routes. Its nonstop service between Los Angeles and Missoula, Montana will become available year-round. Two more routes from Destin/Fort Walton Beach to Cincinnati and MidAmerica St. Louis will extend until January.