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Allegiant to end flights to Phoenix beginning in February

By Corene Brisendine

Allegiant Air announced Monday that it would be halting flights between Manhattan and the Phoenix-Mesa area at the end of February.

Media representatives for Allegiant said that the service to Arizona, which began on Nov. 7, would stop on Feb. 23 — and any bookings beyond that date will be fully refunded.

Manhattan Regional Airport director Peter Van Kuren said that he was unhappy that the carrier is leaving, but he indicated that understood the reasons.

“We’re very disappointed that Allegiant is pulling out,” he said, “but in the end, our market wasn’t strong enough.”

Van Kuren said that even though officials did market research on the viability of the service, sales were not strong enough to support the carrier.

Jessica Wheeler, spokesperson for Allegiant, said that the company chose to leave the market based on ticket sales — or lack of them.

“We try to be flexible, we don’t have a baseline for determining what is profitable,” she said. “We gauge performance on what comparable cities and destinations are making.”

Van Kuren said that he didn’t think the price of tickets was a factor for Allegiant stopping service.

Last week, the airline offered one-way flights to Phoenix for a base fee of $45.

Van Kuren said that even with baggage fees, it was still cheaper than driving to Kansas City International airport, which included the cost of parking at the airport and gas for the trip.

Wheeler said that the company dropped the fare to stimulate more passengers to fly to Phoenix.

“If we have to consistently offer tickets well below cost, we can’t sustain it for any length of time,” she said.

Van Kuren said that he estimates the airline, including those bookings in February, provided about 3,000 person-flights to Phoenix-Mesa.

That total would indicate flights from Manhattan averaged about 75 percent capacity.

Van Kuren said that Allegiant considered it “not profitable enough” to keep the service going, especially when it operated during the coldest months of the year.

“If you can’t attract people to a warmer climate during the coldest time of the year, then there definitely won’t be enough interest during the warmer months,” he said.

Van Kuren also dismissed claims that the airline only begins service in new markets “to grab incentives and then leave.”

He said that if that were the case, Allegiant would have operated for the full year that the city offered incentives.

The city covered all ground costs for the airline to operate at MHK.

“Allegiant came in here and didn’t soak up incentives for a year and then leave,” Van Kuren said. “They saw that sales weren’t strong enough to stay here and made the decision to leave.”

He said that Allegiant contracted those services from a local vendor, and the city paid the invoices from that local contractor.

Van Kuren said the city spent about $13,000 to help Allegiant operate from November through February.

“The good thing is that the money paid out stayed local,” he said. “We estimate the net cost to the city was about $13,000. That’s $13,000 to provide about 3,000 Manhattan area residents with leisure flights to Phoenix.”

Van Kuren said he thinks there may be another opportunity to provide leisure flights to more popular destinations in the future, and that Allegiant’s exit doesn’t impact other operations at the airport.

He indicated that service to Dallas-Fort Worth and Chicago’s O’Hare airports has not been affected — and terminal construction, which began before Allegiant started service, will continue without delay.

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