In surprise move, Allegiant Air pulls out of Charlottesville market - The Daily Progress: Local

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In surprise move, Allegiant Air pulls out of Charlottesville market

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Posted: Friday, January 31, 2014 6:58 pm | Updated: 7:00 pm, Fri Jan 31, 2014.

Allegiant Air announced Friday that it will end flights between the Charlottesville Albemarle Airport and Orlando, Fla., on Feb. 23, ending service here after fewer than 100 days in the market.

Allegiant began service at CHO on Nov. 21. The decision comes despite the Las Vegas-based discount airline’s recent optimism about the Charlottesville market.

“We could sit here and ponder what if, about what would have happened, but truly I don’t have that information, and I don’t think anybody else except for the Allegiant organization has the information that’s pertinent,” said Melinda Crawford, the airport’s executive director.

Crawford said the news is “regrettable” but stressed that the airport isn’t taking it personally.

For airlines, “Their most valuable asset is their aircraft, and they are looking on a daily basis about what’s the most cost-efficient way to operate,” Crawford said. “At the end of the day, it’s a business decision.”

Allegiant offered twice-weekly service from CHO to Sanford International Airport near Orlando. Customers with reservations beyond Feb. 23 will be contacted directly by Allegiant and will receive a full refund.

“We are always disappointed to end service in a market,” Eric Fletcher, Allegiant’s manager of airports, said in a statement. “We thank Charlottesville Albemarle Airport for their partnership and apologize to any travelers who are inconvenienced by this decision.”

In an email, Allegiant spokesman Justin Ralenkotter further explained that demand on the route to sustain the service just wasn’t strong enough.

“At Allegiant, we pride ourselves on being reactive to market demand,” Ralenkotter said. “If we see strong sales on routes, we will add additional capacity. At the same time, if we do not see demand in a market, we have a responsibility to move resources where they are most efficient.”

Ralenkotter said the company “cannot speculate” on returning to Charlottesville in the future. Earlier this week, the airline also announced plans to end service in Manhattan, Kan.

On the morning of the inaugural flight, Charlottesville airport and Allegiant officials welcomed about 85 passengers with fanfare, including a water cannon salute, courtesy of the airport’s fire engines.

“We are appreciative that Allegiant Airlines began the service and we had the opportunity to send several thousand passengers on direct flights to and from the Orlando area,” CHO spokesman Jason Burch said in a statement.

“But we are also disappointed that we will be unable to do the same during our busy spring break season, as well as for our summer travelers. We would like to express our extreme gratitude to those travelers in Central Virginia that embraced this new market at CHO.”

Officials had touted the flight as a way to expand the Charlottesville area’s presence as a year-round vacation destination. Airport officials said they plan to continue to pursue service to other markets.

“I am very pleased with the strength of the market for air service in this area as demonstrated by the high-load factors enjoyed by airlines serving the airport, as well as pleased with the support of the airport by the community,” Bill Kehoe, chairman of the airport authority board, said in an email. “The outstanding airport staff continues its work to provide excellent air service for our community.”

American Airlines is set to add another flight from CHO to La Guardia Airport in New York City beginning April 1.

“We will continue to focus on developing future air service to underserved, high-demand markets such as central and southern Florida while strengthening our current services to Atlanta, Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, Charlotte and Washington D.C. (Dulles),” Burch said.

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