Allegiant Air made it official Thursday. The airline will launch twice-a-week nonstop air service between Duluth and Las Vegas on Jan. 11.
The Las Vegas-based carrier plans to charge $69 each way for seats sold by Nov. 26 for travel completed by May 31. After the promotion, Allegiant spokeswoman Tyri Squyres said one-way tickets probably will rise to somewhere around $100.
"We will reduce the fares currently available by about 30 percent, if not more," Squyres said. She predicts Allegiant's entrance into the Duluth market will more than triple the number of people flying from Duluth to Nevada's gambling capital.
Las Vegas already ranks as thesecond-most popular destination travelers flying from Duluth, said Brian Ryks, director of the Duluth Airport Authority. Only Chicago attracts more traffic.
But Ryks acknowledged that many Northland travelers destined for Las Vegas now drive to the Twin Cities to begin their air journey.
Earl Rogers, owner of Duluth Travel, agreed and said that if more of that business can be captured by Allegiant, Squyres' growth projections are plausible.
He added that Allegiant's low-cost fares also could open new West Coast travel options to Northland travelers.
"From Vegas, you're just a hop, skip and a jump away from Los Angeles or San Francisco," Rogers said. "From those cities, the world is at your doorstep."
Ryks said most people who fly out of Duluth come from within 60 miles of the airport. He predicted that if Allegiant continues to offer low fares, it will regularly be able to pull people from 90 miles.
Duluth Mayor Herb Bergson welcomed Allegiant to town at a news conference Thursday and said the airline's service could serve not only to bring travelers from Duluth to Las Vegas but to move vacationers in the other direction, as well. He suggested Duluth's cool summers may well appeal to Las Vegas residents.
Dennis Ramberg, president of the Duluth Airport Authority, said he's proud that Allegiant chose to make Duluth the first Minnesota market it will serve. He noted that the airline also considered several other Minnesota cities.
If Allegiant's service is well-received in Duluth, Squyres said the airline will consider offering more flights to Las Vegas. The carrier also may consider offering nonstop service to Orlando, Fla.
That would come as excellent news to Ryks, because Orlando ranks fourth in popular destinations for people flying from Duluth. Rounding out the airport's top-five destination list is Phoenix at No. 3 and Denver at No. 5.
Allegiant won't appeal to everyone, Rogers said, because the airline will fly only on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Kurt Ebenhoch, a Northwest spokesman, said the company will do what it takes to compete with Allegiant.
In some markets -- such as Grand Rapids, Mich.; Madison, Wis.; Des Moines, Iowa; and Sioux Falls, S.D. -- Northwest has responded to Allegiant by launching its own nonstop service to Las Vegas.