“Our analysis shows there just isn’t enough demand to support that particular route at this time,” said Allegiant spokeswoman Hilarie Grey.
TOM McLAUGHLIN @TomMnwfdn
Allegiant Air’s Emerald Coast commitment is not paying off for one prime destination and the airline has decided to suspend flights between Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport (VPS) and Las Vegas until at least this fall.
The last scheduled flight between the two destinations is June 26, according to Allegiant spokeswoman Hilarie Grey.
“Our analysis shows there just isn’t enough demand to support that particular route at this time, but we are planning to re-evaluate in the fall,” Grey said in an email to the Northwest Florida Daily News.
Flights to and from Las Vegas began with great fanfare last Oct. 7, and Tracy Stage, the director of the Okaloosa County Airports department, estimated the year-round route would bring an additional 17,000 annual visitors to the area.
Stage said Wednesday morning that the “planes out of here (VPS) are packed,” but the return flights don’t have the same number of passengers, which influenced the suspension of service by Allegiant. He noted, however, that an upcoming change of planes by Allegiant for the airport — switching from the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 to the more fuel-efficient Airbus A320 — could be a factor when the Las Vegas route is reviewed in the fall. The Airbus A320 is expected to be put into service by Allegiant during an upcoming major expansion in available destinations from VPS.
A review of 17 available flights, booked for Mondays and Fridays from VPS to Las Vegas, indicates that passengers are reserving seats. While all flights had at least one available seat, only two had as many as seven seats still open. The June 26 flight was listed with “seats available.”
Shalimar resident Gerry Harvey learned Tuesday that Allegiant was suspending flights to Las Vegas. He got an email notifying him a Sept. 18 flight had been cancelled.
“I called the call center and after about 45 minutes — obviously there were lots of people calling — I was told they were no longer servicing that route,” Harvey said.
Harvey said he did a little research and learned that he could still catch an Allegiant flight in September from Chattanooga to Las Vegas.
Grey termed the Destin-Fort Walton Beach route “definitely an outlier” for Allegiant, which is based in Las Vegas. She said that otherwise, Okaloosa County “has been a great location for us with a number of high-performing routes.”
In January, Allegiant announced plans to make VPS a hub with its single-largest expansion into the Florida market. On that day the airport and airline teamed up for a “Big Event” at which they celebrated adding direct flights from Okaloosa County to 11 new destinations (New York, Washington D.C./Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Louisville, Ky., Austin, Texas, Columbus, Ohio, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Peoria, Ill., and Springfield, Mo.)