Allegiant Starts Orlando Flights

Allegiant Air takes flight from Chattanooga today with nonstops to Orlando as the carrier tries to grow new leisure business in the market.

"They're going after disposable income," said Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport President Mike Landguth. "They're actually stimulating a new type of customer."

Tyri Squyres, Allegiant's director of corporate communications, said that while some business fliers will book with the carrier, leisure travelers are the low-fare airline's focus.

"That's why we sell whole packages," she said, adding the airline has special deals that can include a hotel, car and amusement park tickets.

Ms. Squyres wouldn't say how many seats on the first flight to Orlando are filled, but bookings are "pretty good."

The Las Vegas-based airline, which is flying to Orlando Sanford International Airport, will make one round-trip a day on Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Allegiant is what Mr. Landguth calls "a niche airline." It specializes in nonstop trips to three markets -- Orlando, Las Vegas and Tampa Bay from about 40 smaller cities.

Mr. Landguth said the city has waited for a discount airline for many years, or since AirTran Airways' short-lived service to Orlando ended about a decade ago. Orlando is one of the local market's top five destinations, he said.

"It's jet service -- the big jets," said Mr. Landguth, noting Allegiant uses 150-seat aircraft, which will be the largest flying out of Lovell Field.

West Oehmig of Tennessee Valley Travel Agency said if Allegiant can make money, it will stay in Chattanooga.

"If they can't make enough, they're out of here fast," he said. "They'll test the market. I'm very hopeful we can sustain enough business to provide that service."

The airline, which offered an introductory fare of $49 each way when booked on its Web site, received a $20,000 incentive from the airport.

Also, the airport started a baggage handling and ticketing operation for the airline to help cut Allegiant's costs. The airline plans to start flights from Chattanooga to Tampa Bay on Dec. 11.

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