Allegiant Air picks the LVIA to base aircraft
Move will create 66 jobs, possibility of additional routes
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.
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.