Allegiant suspends its Vegas service

High cost of fuel ends the flights effective Dec. 10

Soaring fuel costs have forced a discount airline to rethink its route strategy, costing Huntsville travelers a much publicized direct-flight to Las Vegas.

Allegiant Air, which kicked off an $89 one-way flight to Las Vegas with fanfare in September, announced late Friday it will suspend the six-week old service effective Dec. 10, company spokeswoman Tyri Squyres told The Times Saturday.

"Unfortunately, due to escalating fuel costs, we will end our Las Vegas service from Huntsville," Maurice J. Gallagher, Allegiant Air president and CEO, said in a company statement. "We do apologize for any inconvenience this may cause our customers. We greatly appreciate the support the community and the airport's management team have shown us."

Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air will continue its flights to Orlando, Fla., which started flying from Huntsville International Airport Thursday, and still plans to add a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., route on Dec. 13, Squyres said.

Squyres said customers that have reservations for Las Vegas flights beyond Dec. 10 "will be contacted about other accommodations, and those that cannot be (rebooked) will be given a 100 percent refund of their ticket prices."

Mark McDaniel, a Huntsville attorney and member of the Huntsville-Madison County Airport Authority, said Saturday the authority had worked "long and hard to secure a low-cost carrier to not only Las Vegas but other destinations."

"With the cost of oil breaking records every day, it's tough times economically for airlines. This is a real setback for us. We'll just have to work that much harder to fill this gap now."

Another low-cost carrier, Independence Air, lasted just a year and a half in Huntsville, shutting down operations in January 2006.

The price of Jet-A fuel, used in commercial jetliners, is $6.25 per gallon at Huntsville International Airport. For many of the Las Vegas flights, Allegiant used MD-88 passengers jets which carry about 6,000 gallons of fuel in three tanks.

The airline introduced the discount Las Vegas flights Sept. 21 at a special rate of $89 one way. Price of the Jet-A fuel at that time was $4 to $5 per gallon.

That price was raised just over a month later to $99 one way. As of Nov. 4, a round-trip ticket to Las Vegas was $228.30.