Last updated: 01:00 AM ET, Thu March 10 2016

Allegiant Announces New Routes and New Markets

Airlines & Airports | Josh Lew | March 10, 2016

Allegiant Announces New Routes and New Markets

Photo courtesy of Allegiant Air

Allegiant Air announced a spate of new routes earlier this week, unveiling service to a total of three new cities. In all, it will add 22 new routes to its lineup in the coming months. These new additions will mean that the ultra-budget carrier now serves 114 destinations.

The three new cities that will now have Allegiant service are Evansville, Indiana; Albuquerque, New Mexico and Santa Rosa, California, where Sonoma County Airport is located. The airline is calling this one of its biggest ever expansion announcements. Santa Rosa flights will start May 19, while both Albuquerque and Evansville will see their first Allegiant plane arrive on June 2.

Entering smaller and mid-sized markets

In Santa Rosa, where Sonoma County-Charles Schultz Airport is the closest gateway to California’s most famous wine region, there is limited competition right now. Alaska Airlines is the only commercial carrier currently serving the airport. Many visitors to the region and people from Sonoma who want to fly elsewhere have to travel to one of the larger Bay Area hubs.

In Evansville, Indiana, the airport is served by the regional affiliates of all three legacy carriers, but there are no other options. The hope is that as Allegiant enters the market, these other carriers will adjust their fares so that they are better able to compete with Allegiant. Unfortunately, for Evansville, there will only be one Allegiant flight initially: to Orlando Sanford. 

READ MORE: Is Allegiant America’s Most Dangerous Airline?

Working both ways

The Sonoma County flights are interesting because there will be demand on both ends of the new destination pairs. Sonoma’s wine region, film festival and cuisine scene draw tourists from all over the world. The new Allegiant flights, from Las Vegas and Phoenix-Mesa (Thursday through Sunday) will make it easier for people in these cities to reach the popular area, while residents who live in Sonoma will be able to reach the Southwest’s two biggest cities, where they could potentially catch connections to other destinations.

What’s more, Sonoma residents won’t have to rely on a single airline, and, if there is demand for these new services, the airport may be able to lure other airlines in the future.

The negative side of the equation

There is another side to this expansion. Major airlines do not like to compete with the likes of Allegiant because of their low fares. The final cost of travel on these ultra-budget airlines is usually driven up by added fees, but legacy carriers don’t like the low initial fares from a competition standpoint. Bringing Allegiant into a market might make Sonoma less attractive to legacy carriers and other airlines. American Airlines has been in talks with airport officials in Sonoma about the possibility of offering a flight from Phoenix. Those talks are on hold, and seem unlikely to resume now that Allegiant will be offering service to the same city pair.

The addition of Allegiant should make the cost of travel lower for Sonoma Country residents, even when the fees are factored in. The overall cost of flying to Las Vegas and Phoenix from Sonoma could be as much as 50 percent cheaper than flying to the same destinations from a larger Bay Area airport.

For more information on Indiana, New Mexico, California

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