After years without regularly scheduled fare-paying air service, Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport has landed an airline and regular flights.
Allegiant and airport officials announced Thursday that the Las Vegas-based airline will begin twice-weekly flights to and from Orlando beginning in May.
The entry of low-cost carrier Allegiant into the Northeast Ohio market comes when growth has slowed for Akron-Canton Airport, still a hotbed of flights by low-cost carriers.
Allegiant offers nonstop service between 32 U.S. cities and Las Vegas, and joins 13 cities to Orlando. Its only other Ohio flights are from Toledo to Orlando and Las Vegas, said Tyri Squyres, the airline's director of corporate communications.
Akron-Canton earlier this month announced that Orlando-based AirTran will suspend direct flights from Akron-Canton to Las Vegas, beginning in May. That service was announced just last year and began in August.
Fred Krum, Akron-Canton's executive director, said fuel costs were to blame. His airport is served by six airlines and has about 48 daily flights.
Youngstown-Warren has had no regularly scheduled passenger service since 2002 and has served private aircraft, charter flights and freight operations.
The Orlando service comes with a $59 one-way introductory fare, Squyres said. Flights at the introductory rate must be booked before early March.
Such fares are a source of friction for consumers because they generally do not apply to every seat and every flight. Squyres said the introductory rate would apply to a majority of seats but had no firm numbers.
Allegiant flies MD-83 and MD-87 twin-engine jets that seat 130 and 150, respectively. It will fly MD-83s through Northeast Ohio.
Akron-Canton's Krum said Thursday that he was happy for the other airport, and said the new service would create new passengers, rather than taking existing ones away from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and Akron-Canton.
Steve Bowser, director of aviation at Youngstown-Warren Regional, said his market generally extends to a 10-county area between Pittsburgh and Cleveland.
Krum said he could easily imagine people driving from outside that zone for the right air fare.
"There's a whole segment of the market for whom a two-hour drive is nothing when they can save some dough," Krum said, "especially to Florida."
Business travelers remain the staple for American air carriers. Allegiant, however, targets tourists.
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