PITTSTON TWP. — Allegiant Air marked its one-year anniversary serving the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport this month, and officials from both the airline and the airport are flying high in the success.
The twice-a-week flights to and from the Orlando-Sanford Airport in Florida have been 90 percent full on average and demand has led the Las Vegas-based airline to increase seats on the flights from 150 to 166.
“We’ve been pleased with Allegiant and we think the customers have been too, based on the flight occupancy rates,” said Barry J. Centini, the airport’s director. He said the airport has requested the airline look into adding additional flights and additional destinations.
He mentioned Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla., Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and Myrtle Beach, S.C. have locals that the airline flies to currently that could benefit this region’s travelers.
Jessica Wheeler, a spokeswoman for the low-cost airline that now operates in 89 markets, said: “We’re always looking at new possibilities. There’s nothing definite at the moment.”
Caters to demand
Wheeler said the company has been satisfied with the response from area customers and called Wilkes-Barre/Scranton “a great market for us.” But she noted the company has pulled out of some markets and shifted to others.
“If demand drops significantly, we will leave a market,” she said, adding that “right now we’re very strong and growing and we don’t plan on going anywhere.”
Prior to Allegiant offering the direct-to-Orlando flights, the last time passengers could leave from Avoca and land in Florida on a non-charter flight was 2005 via Hooter’s Air. Since that airline went bankrupt, local travelers were forced to take connecting flights to Newark, Philadelphia or Detroit to reach Orlando.
Allegiant made its first departure from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on June 21, 2012. The airline took a one-month hiatus in September, typically a low passenger month for flights to Orlando because children head back to school.
Other than that month and June 2012, in which it only operated for a week, the airline has reported enplanements of at least 1,162 each month with March setting a high water mark with 1,427 passengers leaving the local airport bound for Orlando.
Wheeler said the carrier sets a 90 percent fill rate as a goal, and the flights from Northeastern Pennsylvania are meeting that standard. As for the number of flights, she said, two from each market is “the standard in our system.” There are no discussions to change that at this time, she said. Currently the flights leave Thursday and Sunday, and arrive the same days.
Eyeing other destinations
Centini said that while the Orlando flights are working out well and the flights to Detroit, Atlanta, Charlotte, Newark, Chicago and Philadelphia are also close to capacity on a regular basis, the airport is always eyeing adding additional destinations.
Discussions are also ongoing with Pittsburgh International Airport and the airlines that fly in and out of there about re-establishing connector flights with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International.
“We’re working it,” Centini said. “I think there’s some good interest from an airline, in fact, more interest than I thought,” Centini said, declining to identify the carrier.