June 05--Allegiant Air will end service from Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport to Florida's Orlando-Sanford International Airport in August.
Newport News airport officials called the move, announced Tuesday, a business decision.
"They made the decision they are not going to be in the market after August," Newport News airport spokeswoman Jessica Wharton said. "We are disappointed to see them go. We enjoyed our partnership with them."
Allegiant spokeswoman Jessica Wheeler said the company based its decision on a combination of decreasing demand for the flights and increasing expenses.
"We've pushed some flights out of our schedule because we were not seeing demand," Wheeler said, noting the company offered two to four flights per week, depending on the time of year.
"Also, we were recently made aware that our airport costs were going to go up," she said.
Airport fees and rates paid by air carriers are among the airport's sources of revenue that feed its operating budget.
Wharton said, "Our costs are nothing compared to other airports in their model," referring to airports at which Allegiant offers service. "They were going up very slightly."
Newport News airport activity reports show the number of passengers for Allegiant's flights has fallen since 2013. In April 2014, 1,807 passengers flew to Orlando, while during the same month in 2013, 2,615 passengers made the trip on Allegiant. Year to date, Allegiant's numbers are down 44 percent from the same time in 2013, with 7,174 passengers from January through April, compared to 12,830 during the same time in 2013.
Allegiant, a low-fare carrier owned by Allegiant Travel Company of Las Vegas, began service at the Newport News airport in November 2011, offering four flights a week to the Sanford airport, located about 40 miles from Orlando. But the carrier cut back to two flights shortly after it began using the airport, and has cut back service from August through October, when fewer passengers flew to Florida, Wharton said.
Allegiant officials said they would offer full refunds to passengers who bought tickets for flights scheduled to leave Newport News after Aug. 11. Allegiant Manager of Airports Eric Fletcher said the company apologized for any inconvenience to passengers.
Allegiant began operations in 1999, using a combination of low fares and fees for services, such as carry-on bags, checked luggage, seat collection and more. It launched its Newport News service with basic air fares of less than $70, not counting fees and taxes.
Wheeler said Allegiant will not look to begin service from either Norfolk or Richmond International airports. The company does offer flights from Roanoke.
Wharton said Newport News will work with its other airlines -- Delta, US Airways, People Express and Frontier -- to provide flights to the Orlando area.
Peninsula Airport Commission member and Newport News City Manager Jim Bourey said he is not worried about the loss of Allegiant service. "I think we're going to backfill with more frequent and consistent service, with flights into Orlando International Airport."
Copyright 2014 - Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)