Allegiant, which originated in 1999 in Fresno with flights to Las Vegas, will fly the route twice each week, with service on Sundays and Thursdays. The airline, now based in Las Vegas, has the flight schedule and ticket reservations available on its website now for service through mid-May, said Allegiant spokeswoman Laura Billiter. “We saw a lot of demand in this area for low-cost flights,” Billiter said.
The schedule will shift to Monday and Friday flights in mid-February, according to Allegiant’s online booking system.
Allegiant joins American Airlines in providing flights to the greater Phoenix area. American, which is wrapping up its merger with US Airways, flies 26 flights each week from Fresno Yosemite International Airport into the larger Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, where passengers can connect to flights on 16 other airlines to destinations across the U.S. and to foreign cities including London and cities in Canada and Mexico. Phoenix-Mesa Gateway airport is about 25 miles by car from Sky Harbor and about a 35 mile drive from downtown Phoenix.
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Also on Wednesday, Allegiant announced that it will begin offering service from Des Moines, Iowa, and Memphis, Tenn., to Mesa, where it is the only airline offering scheduled service. From Mesa, Allegiant flies to 39 cities across the country, mostly small- to mid-sized markets where the airline promotes Arizona as a sunny-weather getaway with travel packages of hotels and excursions. “We see Phoenix as a destination,” Billiter said. “We don’t do connecting routes.”
Phoenix is one of our strongest markets out of this airport.
Kevin Meikle, Fresno city director of aviation
Kevin Meikle, Fresno’s director of aviation, said Allegiant’s addition of flights to the Phoenix-Mesa metro area gives passengers more options and promotes competition. “Phoenix is one of our strongest markets out of this airport,” he said. “Those flights on American are full. To provide an additional option for travelers is very important to us. … For us, getting multiple airlines to single destinations is important because we believe having the choice is always beneficial to the traveling public.”
Allegiant has been criticized in the past by passengers for a less-than-sparkling on-time record pocked with significant delays. The airline is not large enough to be reported in the Federal Aviation Administration’s online database of on-time performance. But according to flight-tracking website FlightStats Inc., Allegiant’s flights from Fresno to Las Vegas rated either poor or very poor for their on-time rates from July 1 through Aug. 31. About 60 percent of the airline’s flights were on time, and the average delays ranged from one to two hours.
On return flights to Fresno from Las Vegas, Allegiant’s on-time performance was about 66 percent, with an average delay of about an hour.
The airline has also been noted for its practice of offering a bare-bones fare – $49 as an introductory one-way fare for its Fresno-Mesa flights, for example – and then confronting passengers with a slew of add-on options including: charges for booking through Allegiant’s call center, for checked baggage, for carry-on bags, for seat selection, for printing a boarding pass and for priority boarding. “We operate on an a la carte model,” Billiter said. “We offer people the opportunity to pick and choose the amenities and services that they want to offer them the lowest base fare possible.”
Earlier this year, Allegiant announced that its on-again, off-again seasonal nonstop flights from Fresno to Honolulu were off-again for good. Allegiant bought six Boeing 757 jets in 2011 to handle long-haul routes and launched nonstop service from Fresno and Las Vegas in June 2012, adding other mainland markets over the next few months before announcing in 2013 that it was putting many of its Hawaii routes on seasonal hiatus during slow travel periods. Its last Fresno-Honolulu flight was last summer.