Bob Gyurko, left, holds a sign in place on a podium as Nicholas Dennis pulls a piece of tape at the GaryChicago International Airport terminal Tuesday Sept. 28, 2011. The pair were preparing for a press conference scheduled for Wednesday morning. Gyurko is project manager for the airport. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
Gary/Chicago Airport passenger service timeline
November 1999: Pan American Airlines makes its inaugural passenger flight out of Gary/Chicago Airport.
June 2002: Pan American ends its passenger service at Gary, blaming a downturn in the economy after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
October 2002: Gary lands deal to house all of Boeing Corp.’s corporate fleet.
Feb. 25, 2004: Southeast Airlines kicks off passenger service with a flight to St. Petersburg, Fla.
June 2004: Hooters Air of South Carolina begins making flights in and out of Gary airport. The airline is operated by Pace Airlines.
Dec. 1, 2004: Southeast Airlines shocks passengers by announcing an end of service in Gary.
January 2005: Days before ATA Airlines is set to start flying out of Gary, ATA ends service.
December 2005: Hooters Air ends flights from Gary. The airport says it hopes they will return.
December 2006: SkyValue USA announces it will begin passenger service to Phoenix, Las Vegas, Orlando, Fla., Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and St. Petersburg, Fla. The flights will be three times weekly.
May 2007: SkyValue cancels service.
March 2008. Skybus Airlines first flight from Gary/Chicago International Airport to Greensboro, N.C. takes off. The air service lasted less than a month. Meanwhile, there are rumors of a Mexican airline, vivaAerobus, coming to Gary, but the deal never is finalized.
Updated: November 11, 2011 3:47PM
A planned news conference Wednesday to unveil Allegiant Air’s plans to begin passenger service between Gary/Chicago International Airport and Las Vegas was abruptly cancelled Tuesday night, crossed up by railroad tracks that stand in the way of runway expansion.
Interim Airport Director Steve Landry, in a news release Tuesday evening, confirmed cancellation of the air service announcement.
“Allegiant informed the airport today that, despite their internal analysis conducted during the last several weeks, operational limitations of their aircraft and the railroad at the end of the runway prevent moving forward with the Gary-Las Vegas route at this time.”
The loss only seemed to hasten the urgency for the airport to get the runway expansion finished by its scheduled 2013 completion date.
Landry said the railroads — Canadian National, CSX and Norfolk Southern — received letters earlier this week sent from 10 U.S. legislators urging action, and negotiations are ongoing.
“This deal clearly shows there’s an interest by airlines in Gary,” Landry said. “It shows that we need to increase our focus on getting the railroads to sign off on the contracts and keep pressing on.”
Allegiant Air spokeswoman Kristine Cooper late Tuesday said the company did not plan to make an announcement on Wednesday, calling any mentions of a deal “premature.”
Earlier in the day, a news release and phone calls from Diversified Marketing of Crown Point trumpeted a “major airline announcement” to come at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the airport. Mayor Rudy Clay, Gary airport executives and local leaders would be on hand for the announcement, according to the marketing firm. Immediately after the announcement, a website with information about the airline would be up and running, the company said.
In fact, a trip to the airport made it clear which airline was coming as Allegiant Air signs were already there but not yet posted. A high-ranking Gary airport official confirmed Allegiant was coming. He said he expected service to begin soon, with two flights a day, although he was not sure to where.
But by evening, rumors swirled that there would be no news conference, and Allegiant had no plans to come to Northwest Indiana. Cancellation of the news conference came about 7 p.m.
Allegiant flies to a number of smaller, regional airports in the United States, including South Bend and Fort Wayne, and recently started service from Phoenix to Las Vegas. Those cities, plus Florida, comprise much of the airline’s business.
The local airport official said Allegiant considers itself a travel company, not just an airline, as it partners with businesses in the cities it serves to create travel packages.
Landry earlier in the day said he agreed not disclose the airline prior to Wednesday’s announcement.