Tuesday , June 20, 2017 - 5:07 PM
OGDEN — “You can’t get there from here.”
Allegiant Air, which currently offers two flights per week between Ogden and Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in Arizona, announced on Tuesday it will be tripling its weekly offerings out of the Ogden Airport — adding two flights each to both Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
“This is a great day for Ogden, Utah,” Mayor Mike Caldwell said at a press conference Tuesday morning at the airport, adding later that he hopes the airport will one day become a “hub of activity.”
Ogden has been recognized as one of the 20 fastest-growing cities in the United States, according to Caldwell. He said the new non-stop routes to Los Angeles International Airport and Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport will serve as a “great new tool in our economic tool box.”
Flights to Los Angeles — expected to be offered on Thursdays and Sundays — will begin Oct. 5. Flights to Las Vegas — scheduled for Fridays and Mondays — begin Nov. 17.
Promotional fares are now available at allegiant.com, offering flights to L.A. for $35 each way. Flights to Vegas are $45 each way.
“This is a big deal,” said Mark Johnson, the city’s chief administrative officer. “It’s an amazing opportunity to continue growing the airport.”
Eric Fletcher, director of government affairs for Allegiant, said Tuesday’s news was part of a larger 28-route announcement for the company across the country. Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, for example, added eight new destinations. Fletcher admitted the additional routes through Ogden had been a long time in coming.
Fletcher said Allegiant has long been interested in expanding flights at the Ogden Airport. He said the Ogden-to-Mesa route was “successful immediately” — with a greater than 90-percent capacity rate over the past four years.
Jon Greiner, airport manager, said he’s regularly needled Fletcher that two flights a week just isn’t enough for the Ogden Airport.
“You invited me to the dance, but left me in the bleachers,” Greiner would tell Fletcher.
At Tuesday’s press conference, Fletcher acknowledged the airport manager’s frustration.
“I was like the guy asking him to the dance and never showing up,” Fletcher admitted. “Well, Jon, now I’m here to take you to the prom.”
With the added flights to L.A. and Vegas, Fletcher estimates some 65,000 passengers will fly in and out of Ogden over the next 12 months.
Caldwell dreams of the day when as many as 35 flights a week originate out of Ogden. He touted the convenience of the Ogden Airport for those in the area.
“I’ve flown out of both (Salt Lake and Ogden),” Caldwell said. “Here, you just roll in and get on the plane and get on vacation.”
Over the past few years, the relationship between commercial aviation and general aviation at the Ogden Airport has been strained, to say the least. Caldwell said the city still wants to see general aviation successful at the airport.
“We still love them, and a healthy airport — at the end of the day — will be better for them,” he said. “It will restrict a few take-off and landing times for general aviation, but I don’t expect it to dramatically affect them. As anything grows, there will always be growing pains.”
Troy Larkin, vice chairman of the Ogden Airport Advisory Board, said his group was not even consulted on this latest Allegiant deal.
“We were not only out of the loop, but we weren’t invited to give any input,” he said. “We were not involved in this at all.”
Larkin said that’s surprising to him, as the board consists of eight members with extensive aviation experience.
“We would have gladly put our two cents in,” he said.
Greiner, who has clashed with general aviation enthusiasts at the airport, couldn’t resist a reference to a prediction one of them had made last fall, telling him, “I say to your face, Jon: I think we’re going to get 10 flights a week the day after my unicorn wins the Kentucky Derby.”
“Well, we’re up to six flights a week now,” Greiner said with a grin. “That unicorn might just win the Kentucky Derby.”
The city currently subsidizes the airport to the tune of somewhere between $500,000 and $750,000 a year. Although Allegiant will soon be offering six commercial flights a week, officials say it’ll take six flights a day for the airport to break even.
“And we were four years getting to six a week,” Greiner cautions.
Greiner said each flight in and out of the Ogden Airport is worth about $30,000 to the city in terms of parking and other fees.
In addition to Allegiant’s promise of tripling flights out of Ogden, the city had also received a proposal from the startup company Destination Express for 12 or 13 flights a week. But in the end, officials believed continuing the slow growth with Allegiant was preferable.
“We already understand this relationship,” Caldwell explained.
According to information provided by Allegiant, the Las Vegas-based company started with one aircraft and one route back in 1999. Today, Allegiant has grown to more than 80 aircraft and 300 routes around the country. The company says its base airfares are less than half the cost of the average domestic round-trip ticket.
Fletcher said they hope to expand other routes out of Ogden in the coming years. An airport feasibility study done for the city found that the next three logical cities would be Denver, Oakland and San Diego, according to Greiner.
Greiner says he’s approached 18 airlines about offering service out of Ogden, and they all told him the No. 1 reason they can’t do it had nothing to do with the airport itself.
“They just can’t find pilots — it’s a lack of qualified pilots,” he said.
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