Allegiant departs Valley, boosts Pittsburgh flights

It wasn’t enough for Alle– giant Air to injure the Mahoning Valley by discontinuing its low-fare service to Florida and South Carolina. It had to add an insult by revealing just five days after its last flight Jan. 4 out of Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport the launch of two new nonstop routes from Pittsburgh International Airport to Florida and South Carolina.

“We’re excited to announce the only ultra-low-cost, nonstop service from Pittsburgh to our two newest cities: Charleston and Sarasota,” said Lukas Johnson, Allegiant senior vice president of commercial. “We’re very excited to add more great destinations for travelers in this community with more ways to conveniently and affordably get away your way.”

Ironically, during the 11 years Allegiant Air served the Mahoning Valley, it had flights to Sanford/Orlando, Fla.; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; St. Petersburg, Fla.; and Punta Gorda, Fla.

From 2009 to 2014, the Vienna Township airport was Allegiant’s fastest-growing service area.

Given this history and the fact that the Valley played a major role in burnishing the low-cost airline’s reputation, we aren’t surprised company higher-ups didn’t have the courage to show up to say farewell.

However, there was an asterisk to the final flight to St. Petersburg/Clear- water International Airport in Florida that gave area residents a reason to gloat: Departure was delayed several hours because of a mechanical issue.

If that sentence has a familiar ring, it’s because The Vindicator has used it or variations many times over the years in relation to Allegiant’s service record.

Even so, the people of the Mahoning Valley remained loyal to the airline – only to be repaid with the company abandoning the region.

When Allegiant announced last year it was pulling out, it issued this statement:

“Demand in the area was simply not high enough to continue service at this time.”

Scheduling changes

While the airline sought to blame us for its abandonment, here’s a pertinent reason for the decline in demand: Allegiant made scheduling and destination changes that impacted the travel plans of Mahoning Valley residents.

In addition, the airline, which has grown as a company in the past decade, began service out of Pittsburgh and Cleveland. The expansion signaled a change in priorities, which meant that the Valley was no longer the apple of the airline’s eye.

“At the end of the day it is a carrier’s market, not an airport’s market,” Bob Mann, an aviation industry analyst, told The Vindicator last year. “There are just so many opportunities for these airlines.”

Mann noted that the financial bottom line and the shortage of pilots and other crew members are forcing airlines to take a hard look at where to provide service.

That hard look by Allegiant worked to the detriment of this region.

And yet, to the very end, there were expressions of regret over the discontinuation of service.

“We are just sorry this is closing,” Dorothy Nugent of Jefferson told The Vindicator as she prepared to board the last flight out.

Nugent said her family flew in and out of the Vienna airport on Allegiant several times a year. The airline and the airport were “very convenient,” she added.

Karen LaPresta of Safety Harbor, Fla., also was a frequent passenger on Allegiant flights to visit relatives in Austintown. She was puzzled by the decision to discontinue service.

“I couldn’t understand why because this flight is always booked – completely,” LaPresta told the newspaper. “Hopefully, they will get a new carrier soon.”

Hope springs eternal when it comes to commercial air service at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport. We celebrated the launching of Allegiant’s flights 11 years ago, and we applauded the decision in 2016 by Great Lakes JetExpress to provide daily flights to Chicago.

Unfortunately, the community fanfare that greeted Great Lakes’ arrival turned to despair when the commuter airline called it quits after just one month.

That’s why the final departure by Allegiant is such a bitter pill to swallow. The region did everything – and more – to make sure the Las Vegas-based airline knew it was an integral part of the community.

So when Johnson, the senior vice president of commercial, says the company hopes “our loyal, sun-seeking passengers in the Northeast Ohio area will continue to fly with us from other nearby airports with Allegiant service,” we respond by pointing out that loyalty is a two-way street.

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