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New Flights Coming to an Airport Near You

Allegiant Air will be a big factor in air travel the rest of this year and next. It will add new routes, and even if it won’t fly to your home airport, some other line might, following Allegiant’s business model. Although next summer is a long way off, some of the developments already announced may have a big impact on your travel plans for 2015.

Allegiant has been a consistent profit leader, using a business model not many other lines have mastered. Stated simply, its model is “nowhere to somewhere.” That means connecting small-city airports—those with insufficient traffic to interest traditional lines—with blockbuster vacation destinations, usually only two or three times a week, and selling hotel packages along with the air links. Right now, its blockbuster destinations include four in Florida, four in California, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Myrtle Beach and Phoenix. Allegiant has (in my view) pretty much run out of feasible “nowheres,” but it still has lots of room to grow:

  • Connect established nowheres to different somewheres. The line has already announced new fall service, starting in November, from its current service points of Belleville, Illinois, Bloomington, Illinois, Concord, North Carolina, Huntington, West Virginia, and Peoria, Illinois, to additional Florida destinations.
  • New somewheres: Trade sources say Allegiant will shortly announce a destination in Mexico, probably Cabo or Cancun.
  • Currently, Allegiant is a bicoastal operation: It runs no flights to Orlando, Florida, from west of North Dakota and Texas, and no flights to Las Vegas from east of Ohio. I’m sure it’s looking at more East Coast-to-Vegas and West Coast-to-Florida options.

Beyond Mexico, my personal favorites for new Allegiant destinations are (1) New York City, through Long Island MacArthur Airport, from the Midwest and West Coast, and (2) Dublin, Ireland, from the East Coast. Irish pre-clearance means Allegiant could serve small U.S. airports lacking their own customs and immigration facilities.

Condor, the big German-based vacation airline, just announced summer schedules with less-than-daily Frankfurt nonstops from five North American cities with no other nonstop flights to Europe: Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska, Portland, Oregon, Providence, Rhode Island, and Whitehorse, Yukon—along with Baltimore, Calgary, Ft. Lauderdale, Halifax, Las Vegas, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Seattle, Toronto, and Vancouver. Currently posted fares show Condor as substantially lower than the giant lines, and if current postings actually hold for the summer, you can expect some real sticker shock. On the new flights from Portland, for example, Condor fares start at $1,200 round-trip, compared with around $1,600 for one-stop flights on the other lines.

British Airways announced it was looking for possible new London nonstops from smaller U.S. cities, with trade speculation centered on Cleveland, Columbus, Indianapolis, Nashville, and St. Louis. Flights would almost certainly be on BA’s new 787s, planes specifically designed for efficient flights on “thin” long-haul routes.

Confused about Norwegian Air? With press reports saying that the DOT failed to approve the line’s plans for flights to the U.S., will Norwegian have to discontinue its current flights? Will you be able to enjoy its low fares next year? The catch is this: Current flights, which will continue, are operated with DOT approval by the parent Norway-based line, and Norwegian wants to operate them from a new company based in lower-cost Ireland.

The issue is political: U.S. airlines don’t want the low-cost competition, and they’re backed by their unions. And the airlines, the unions and the politicians who support them are trying to cast the problem as an attempt at “Walmarting” the U.S. airline industry: exporting jobs to low-tax, low wage, low-safety countries. But Ireland? Aer Lingus has been flying since 1936, Irish-based Ryanair is the largest local airline in Europe, and nobody is trying to shut down either line.

Because both Ireland and Norway are covered by “open skies” agreements with the U.S., legal types say that Norwegian’s proposal is perfectly legal. But industry folks believe that the DOT is kicking the issue down the road until after the November election, when political pressures will be lower.

Ed Perkins Seniors on the Go is copyright (c) 2014 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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