Allegiant Air, the newest airline to establish a hub in Las Vegas, last week inaugurated nonstop service to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
The new route brings to 15 the number of cities served by the low-fare airline.
"We are extremely pleased to extend the Allegiant brand of low-fare nonstop jet service to the people of Oklahoma City and its surrounding area," said Maurice Gallagher, the airline’s president and CEO. "Based on our advanced bookings, our new service is proving to have great appeal to the market."
Flights to Oklahoma City are scheduled for Thursday, Friday, Sunday and Monday each week, with fares ranging from $89 to $189 (one-way).
Allegiant Air, which consolidated its operations in Las Vegas 18 months ago after relocating from Fresno, California, has focused on routes often neglected by the major carriers. Many of its destinations are Midwest cities such as Wichita, Kansas, Bismarck, North Dakota, Cedar Rapids, Iowa and Madison, Wisconsin.
"People in some of those markets often have to drive more than an hour to reach a nearby airport or use connecting service to get to Las Vegas," said Allegiant Vice President Mark Peterson. "We saw there was a demand there and hope to keep that business from bleeding off to other airports."
Tapping into smaller markets is often too costly for major airlines, but ideal for fledgling companies like Allegiant Air, according to Ray Neidl, an airline industry analyst with Wall Street’s Blaylock & Partners.
"It’s a difficult market for larger airlines to operate a hub in, but it’s a good point-to-point market for low-cost carriers that specialize in leisure traffic," said Neidl, who added that leisure air travel has steadily increased since the drop-off following 9/11.
Las Vegas has benefitted greatly from the increase in air travel. Last year, 36.3 million passengers passed through McCarran Airport, a 3.6 percent increase over traffic in 2002 and the second busiest year ever.
In its first year in Las Vegas, Allegiant posted a 233 percent increase in air traffic with about 270,000 passengers.
The No. 1 carrier for Las Vegas air travel in 2003 was Southwest Airlines with about 11.7 million passengers; America West was second with 6 million passengers.
Allegiant, as well as the other commercial carriers, picked up many of the customers who previously flew National Airlines, the Las Vegas-based carrier that ceased operations in November 2002. At its peak, National handled about 90,000 passengers per month.
Helping to solidify its position as a Las Vegas hub is Allegiant’s vacation division, which has established relationships with 25 major Las Vegas hotels. Among the resorts that offer air and hotel vacation packages are MGM Grand, The Venetian, Paris, Mandalay Bay, Golden Nugget, Bally’s, Stardust, Flamingo, Circus Circus and Gold Coast.
In addition to its regular routes, Allegiant Air operates a charter service whose customers include Harrah’s Entertainment, Apple Vacations, collegiate athletic organizations, film companies and the U.S. Forest Service.
All seats that are purchased on Allegiant Air are assigned and all travel is ticketless. The airline’s fleet includes 10 aircraft, including two MD-87s and eight MD-83s. The privately-owned carrier was founded in 1997.