Al­le­giant Air picks the LVIA to base air­craft

Move will cre­ate 66 jobs, pos­si­bil­ity of ad­di­tional routes

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By Tom Short­ell

Al­le­giant Air will make Le­high Val­ley In­ter­na­tional Air­port its new­est air­craft base in 2020, cre­at­ing at least 66 jobs and the po­ten­tial for new routes out of the re­gional air­port, the bud­get air­line an­nounced Tues­day.

Al­le­giant has seen years of growth at the air­port, mak­ing the Le­high Val­ley an at­trac­tive lo­ca­tion, said Hi­larie Grey, Al­le­giant’s direc­tor of cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tion. In June, Al­le­giant flew nearly 40% of all pas­sen­gers in and out of LVIA with the rest spread be­tween Amer­i­can Air­lines, Delta and United.

Last year, Al­le­giant in­creased the fre­quency of its flights at LVIA, and this year it has added ser­vices to Nashville, Tennessee, and Sa­van­nah, Ge­or­gia.

Most air­lines have moved to a hub-and-spoke sys­tem, where long-dis­tance flights orig­i­nate from ma­jor air­ports like Ne­wark or Philadel­phia. These car­ri­ers re­quire smaller mar­kets like the Le­high Val­ley to con­nect to one of these hubs in or­der to get to more dis­tant des­ti­na­tions.

Al­le­giant plays against the grain by con­nect­ing smaller air­ports to pop­u­lar va­ca­tion get­aways like Or­lando, Florida, and Myr­tle Beach, South Carolina, Grey said. Flight crews gen­er­ally travel out of bases and back in a sin­gle day, mean­ing Al­le­giant em­ploy­ees fre­quently are able to sleep in their own beds.

“The truth is the Le­high Val­ley is a good sweet spot for our sys­tem,” Grey said. “We love to pick up de­mand that other car­ri­ers have left be­hind.”

About $500,000 in tax in­cen­tives of­fered by the state — largely for em­ployee train­ing and work­force de­vel­op­ment — didn’t hurt, ei­ther.

Al­le­giant and of­fi­cials with the Le­high-Northamp­ton Air­port Au­thor­ity and Le­high Val­ley Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Corp. cred­ited state Sen. Pat

“The truth is the Le­high Val­ley is a good sweet spot for our sys­tem. We love to pick up de­mand that other car­ri­ers have left be­hind.”

— Hi­larie Grey, Al­le­giant’s direc­tor of cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tion

Browne with se­cur­ing the money that sweet­ened the deal. Browne said he was not aware of other mar­kets look­ing to land the air­craft base but be­lieved the Le­high Val­ley beat out larger re­gions.

“A pub­lic com­po­nent was some­thing that was nec­es­sary be­cause it was a na­tional search and the com­pet­ing mar­kets were of­fer­ing pub­lic com­po­nents,” he said.

Browne was ex­cited about the eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties Al­le­giant can of­fer to the Le­high Val­ley. Al­le­giant of­fers ser­vices to dis­tant cities like Den­ver and Las Ve­gas, and po­ten­tial flights to those des­ti­na­tions would help at­tract busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties. “We haven’t had Le­high Val­ley flights to some of those places for as long as I can re­mem­ber, maybe ever,” he said.

Bas­ing two air­craft out of LVIA will re­quire a $50 mil­lion in­vest­ment, Grey said, and will even­tu­ally lead Al­le­giant to add new routes to and from the Hanover Town­ship, Le­high County, fa­cil­ity. Grey did not dis­close those des­ti­na­tions Tues­day.

The Le­high-Northamp­ton Air­port Au­thor­ity has formed a wish list of des­ti­na­tions it wants to add af­ter con­duct­ing sur­veys of reg­u­lar trav­el­ers and peo­ple in the re­gion. Its find­ings have led staff to ap­proach car­ri­ers about bring­ing in flights to Bos­ton, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Wash­ing­ton, D.C., but so far, none have fol­lowed through. Al­le­giant does of­fer flights to those mar­kets, but Grey was tight-lipped about any con­nec­tions.

Al­le­giant has been busy with ex­pan­sion plans this year. LVIA will be its 18th air­craft base, and it’s al­ready added bases in Des Moines, Iowa, and Sa­van­nah this year.

Tom Stoudt, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the air­port au­thor­ity, said none of the other car­ri­ers op­er­at­ing out of LVIA use it as an air­craft base.

Al­le­giant’s added pres­ence means it will move into va­cant of­fices and stor­age space in the main ter­mi­nal.

“We’re at about a third of our ca­pac­ity, so we have lots of room for ex­pan­sion,” he said.

APRIL GAMIZ/THE MORN­ING CALL

Al­le­giant Air in­creased the fre­quency of its flights at Le­high Val­ley In­ter­na­tional Air­port last year, and this year it has added ser­vices to Nashville, Tennessee, and Sa­van­nah, Ge­or­gia.

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