MidAmerica Aiming at D.C. Service

With the Orlando, Fla., area route back in place, and the Las Vegas route thriving, MidAmerica St. Louis Airport officials have started to look ahead to another destination: Washington, D.C.

This news came Wednesday, just as Allegiant Air announced it will fill the vacancy left by TransMeridian Airlines from MidAmerica to Orlando Sanford International Airport in Florida. TransMeridian Airlines decided to terminate operations in September and file for bankruptcy, despite flights out of MidAmerica that were about 80 percent full.

"We are really excited to be here, based on the success of our Las Vegas service," said Tyri Squyres, a spokesman for Allegiant Air. "We'll try to keep our fares low despite the rising cost of fuel."

The airline offers flights four days a week from MidAmerica airport to Las Vegas. Squyres said about 75 percent to 85 percent of its 150 passenger seats have been full for its Las Vegas flights.

Allegiant Air's nonstop jet service will start Feb. 1 with flights twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays, with a $59 one-way introductory fare.

Allegiant will receive an additional $25,000 in marketing incentives from St. Clair County. The county gave the airline $220,000 in marketing incentives and waived a year of landing fees when Allegiant began service to Las Vegas in April. Airport Director Tim Cantwell estimated that the landing fees for a year are about $30,000 to $35,000.

While Allegiant's Las Vegas and Orlando routes target leisure travelers, Cantwell said he hopes that a Washington, D.C., service would help to attract business travelers in the private and federal sectors.

Washington was identified by a 2004 Mead & Hunt study as one of the top 25 destinations for passengers in this region, Cantwell said.

He said MidAmerica is looking into the possibility of contracting with the government's General Services Administration to provide flights to federal employees to the Washington area. "This is something we couldn't even consider before the BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure commission) decision," Cantwell said.

Earlier this year, the commission recommended against closing Scott Air Force Base and urged instead bringing in an additional 800 jobs, including military, civilian and contractor positions. The base employs almost 14,000 military members and civilians, including active duty military, guard member s and reservists.

Mike Boggs, of Mead & Hunt, a Madison, Wis.-based consulting firm, explained that the U.S. General Services Administration puts out contract bids for airlines to provide flights to federal employees between cities such as Mascoutah and Washington, D.C. The airline with the best bid becomes the authorized carrier for government travel.

Cantwell said he's in talks with several airlines with 50- to 70-seat planes.

Contact reporter Aliana Ramos at aramos@bnd.com or 239-2507.

Belleville News Democrat

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