It was worth the wait. After a seemingly endless build-up, a planeload of folks headed for the Arizona sunshine finally zoomed out of Manhattan Regional Airport Thursday afternoon.
Allegiant Air’s inaugural flight from Manhattan to Phoenix-Mesa carried 133 generally pleased passengers off to the desert.
City manager Ron Fehr said prior to Allegiant, the airport mostly provided travel for business. The Phoenix flight is the first one geared toward personal and entertainment travel.
Fehr said the first Allegiant flight – inbound from Phoenix-Mesa – brought 104 passengers Thursday morning.
Allegiant’s Airbus 19 aircraft hold a maximum of 156 passengers.
Cynthia Dammann said she drove from Topeka to be on the flight to Arizona because it was $80 cheaper than flying out of Kansas City International.
She said she was going to spend the weekend helping her daughter with wedding plans.
Although Dammann flew out of Manhattan, she said she would be returning on Monday through Kansas City because the flights to and from Manhattan are only twice a week.
According to the Manhattan airport website, flights are scheduled Thursdays and Sundays.
Kayla Pearson, a Westmoreland resident, said she was also going to visit family.
Along with her two daughters, Pearson plans to stay in Phoenix for about a week and return on a flight to Manhattan.
Pearson said her family used to drive to Wichita to fly to Phoenix, but now that service is in Manhattan, she said she is looking forward to using Allegiant’s flights because of convenience.
Lori Post from Junction City said she was also thrilled with the new service. She was headed to Phoenix to attend some arts and craft shows.
“There’s more stuff the first week of December,” Post said. “So if this goes well, I’ll be going back.”
Post said she plans on making the two-and-a-half-hour flight frequently because of cost and convenience.
Eric Fletcher, manager of airports for Allegiant, said he had spent the last two years hammering out the contract between Allegiant and Manhattan — and that he hoped this was just the beginning of a long-time partnership.
Manhattan airport director Peter Van Kuren said the success of the service to and from Phoenix also would determine how Manhattan’s airport services grow.
To celebrate the flight, Allegiant provided cake, water and sunscreen to passengers boarding the flight to Phoenix, which left Manhattan at 3:30 p.m. Thursday.
The normal departure time from Manhattan for the flights will be at 12:15 p.m. with arrival in Phoenix-Mesa at 1:45 p.m.
The return flight from Phoenix-Mesa to Manhattan — also on Thursdays and Sundays — leaves Arizona at 8:15 a.m. and arrives at 11:35 a.m.