One year later, Allegiant stays aloft in Gary
By Carole Carlson firstname.lastname@example.org/648-3154 February 18, 2013 5:44PM
Passengers check in for a Allegiant Airlines flight at the Gary/Chicago International Airport Sunday, February 17, 2013, in Gary, Ind. Allegiant Air has been flying out of the Gary Airport for over year and aided the airport in surpassing the 10,000 passenger mark in December 2012. | Scott M. Bort~For Sun-Times Media
Allegiant at a glance
Allegiant reported fourth-quarter 2012 earnings of $14.8 million, 76 cents a share, on revenue of $222.8 million compared with 2011 fourth-quarter earnings of $10.8 million, 56 cents a share, on revenue of $193.9 million.
In December, Allegiant paid a special dividend of $2 a share to shareholders, returning $38 million to investors.
Allegiant announced plans to buy nine Airbus A320 twin-engine jets, taking delivery of seven this year and two in 2014. The planes use less fuel and have larger capacities than the existing fleet.
Updated: February 19, 2013 3:54PM
GARY — Allegiant Air marked its first anniversary of passenger service at the Gary/Chicago International Airport last week and the airline and city say their relationship is still going strong.
When Allegiant started its two-day a week flights to Orlando Sanford International Airport in Florida Feb. 15, 2012, it heralded the first passenger service at the airport in three years. More importantly, Allegiant brought a quality missing in previous Gary passenger carriers — a background of business success.
Parent company Allegiant Travel reported its 40th consecutive profitable quarter last month. It ended 2012 with double-digit percentage increases in revenue, earnings and earnings per share, leading CEO Maurice Gallagher to say: “We’re just going to be a cash machine going forward.”
That’s played out in its first year in Gary, despite periodic suspensions of service at off-peak vacation flight times. Allegiant plans to suspend service in Gary in mid-April through May and resume in June.
Airport Interim Director Steve Landry said Allegiant hit the 10,000-passenger mark in December, guaranteeing the airport $1 million in additional revenue in 2014 from the Federal Aviation Administration. The airline ended the year serving 10,500 passengers.
Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson thinks it’s the first time an airline hit the 10,000 passenger milestone in Gary. “It’s been a cooperative relationship. They’ve run promotions with us and all of that has led to success.”
Allegiant spokesman Brian Davis said the travel suspension periods are part of the airline’s business model.
“Leisure travel is very cyclical, there are times of year when people want to go on vacation and times they don’t,” he said. “We built the airline to be flexible. We built the business with a load factor of at least 90 percent and we’ll manage the price to make sure that happens.”
Airport marketing liaison James Ward said Allegiant plans to alter its flight days to Wednesdays and Saturdays once school is out in June so passengers can realize more savings. He said last year Allegiant retooled 47 of its 51 MD-80 jets, adding 16 seats bringing its capacity to 166. The airline offers bundle packages to travelers that include hotels, attraction tickets, and rental cars.
Allegiant’s current one-way ticket from Gary to Sanford is $65 and overnight parking at the airport is $7 a night, reasonable bargains for vacationing fliers.
Freeman-Wilson hopes the $166 million runway expansion project, expected to be completed in December, will lead Allegiant to offer flights to Las Vegas, Nev. and Clearwater, Fla., popular passenger destinations. The runway expansion will enable planes to carry more fuel needed for longer passenger flights.
The mayor, and other supporters, are banking on the expansion leading to more airport activity, including additional passenger service, charters and cargo flights. “That’s our plan, we’re not putting $166 million in for one airline,” she said.