Allegiant plans flights to Tampa-St. Petersburg

Hank Hayes • Sep 17, 2008 at 12:00 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Low-fare Allegiant Air is expected to announce new air service from Tri-Cities Regional Airport to the Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla., area this morning, the Times- News has learned.

Allegiant, which has been TCRA’s main bright spot for ridership, announced it would discontinue its TCRA-to-Fort Lauderdale service this month, but its flights from Northeast Tennessee to Orlando continue operating.

Airport officials are hoping the Fort Lauderdale flights will be restored.

The Tampa-St. Petersburg service is expected to begin in late November with Monday and Friday flights and low fares typical of what has been charged for Orlando flights.

In a first for TCRA, the airport offered to take over ground baggage handling services for Allegiant when the airline came on board, and the move has bolstered passenger counts in a travel market hit hard by high fuel prices.

Airline ridership at TCRA this year is only down about 1 percent compared to last year, while parking revenues are up a percentage point, according to airport reports.

Allegiant’s total system ridership has approached 350,000 passengers and is up more than 26 percent year to date from last year, according to company reports.

The Las Vegas-based company’s strategy has been to fly travelers from small towns to leisure destinations. Allegiant also bundles its air service with hotel rooms and rental cars.

Those company reports indicate Allegiant’s planes are more than 90 percent full when they leave the runway.

On Tuesday, Allegiant was offering new flights from Lexington, Ky., to both Orlando and Tampa-St. Petersburg for an introductory one-way fare of $69. That price did not include a passenger facility charge, a Sept. 11 security fee or a checked baggage fee when purchased at the time of booking.

In other air service developments, TCRA has been working with Paragon, a small start-up airline, about offering business traveler service to Nashville and Washington, D.C.

For more about TCRA go to www.triflight.com.

For more about Allegiant go to www.allegiantair.com.

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