Let’s learn from Allegiant episode

End of flights to Phoenix disappointing

By The Mercury

We’re disappointed that Allegiant Air has decided to halt its twice-weekly flights to and from Phoenix and hope the city’s brief relationship with Allegiant can serve as a learning experience.

Allegiant, whose last Manhattan flight will be Feb. 23, began service here with modest fanfare Nov. 7. At the time, Allegiant representative Thayne Klingler said the company decided to bring flights to Manhattan because the city has what he called the right demographics. According to Mercury stories, Mr. Klingler added that the airline had been considering expansion and that the company had had its eyes on Manhattan for some time. Allegiant believed partnerships with Kansas State University, Fort Riley and, one day, NBAF, would provide plenty of customers.

Manhattan officials were more than a little interested. In mid-October, city commissioners approved an incentive package that called for reimbursing Allegiant up to $100,000 a year for two years. Commissioner Wynn Butler cast the only dissenting vote. He was troubled in part, he said, because Allegiant operates “more as a travel agency” and that full planes alone might not satisfy Allegiant. As it turned out, his misgivings were well placed.

Hindsight being what it is, further research by both parties might have been helpful. Allegiant either overestimated the number of passengers it would carry from Manhattan or overestimated how many of Allegiant Travel’s other services those passengers would patronize.

Though the relationship with Allegiant hasn’t worked out as planned, we don’t fault commissioners for taking what was a calculated risk. The city is out about $13,000, but it’s wrong to say that the money, which went to local firms that provided service to Allegiant, was wasted. As airport director Peter Van Kuren pointed out at the time, such incentives are part and parcel of attracting airline service.

Given the city’s investment in the airport, commissioners would have erred in ignoring the opportunity Allegiant offered to broaden travel opportunities for area residents from the present destinations of Chicago and Dallas. Fact is, the city and the region are growing in population and influence. What is more, the partnerships that Mr. Klingler spoke of involving KSU, Fort Riley and NBAF will only become more attractive to other airlines looking to expand to medium-sized markets.

We hope city officials put the knowledge gained from this experience to good use when the next opportunity arises.

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