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Published: 12/5/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

Allegiant Air adding route from Toledo Express to Florida starting in February

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Allegiant Air, which already flies routes between Toledo Express Airport and secondary airports in the Orlando, Fla., and Tampa markets, will start service to Punta Gorda in southwest Florida in February, the airline is announcing today.

Like its existing service from Toledo to Sanford and Clearwater, Fla., the Punta Gorda route will provide two roundtrips per week, according to an Allegiant statement.

Service will start Feb. 16, with tickets available starting today. Promotional fares of $89.99 one-way are being offered to travelers who book flights between now and next Wednesday.

“We are pleased to bring a new, affordable, and convenient travel option for Toledo residents,” Andrew C. Levy, president of Allegiant Air’s corporate parent, Las Vegas-based Allegiant Travel Co., said in a statement announcing the flights. “We are confident the community will appreciate the value of flying nonstop to southwest Florida and the value of bundling their air, hotel, and car-rental reservation together.”

Allegiant is taking over a route formerly flown by DirectAir, which operated popular scheduled charters between Toledo and Punta Gorda for several years. The service ended in March, when DirectAir abruptly ceased operations and declared bankruptcy.

“We are very excited that Allegiant has added the Fort Myers/Punta Gorda flight out of Toledo Express Airport,” said Paul Toth, chief of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, which operates Toledo Express. “The Fort Myers area has always been a top vacation destination for residents of northwest Ohio, and we’re thrilled to bring this route back to the traveling community.”

Allegiant also will start Punta Gorda service in February from Plattsburgh, N.Y., and Rockford, Ill. The addition of those cities and Toledo will bring to 11 the number of airports — mostly in the Midwest — from which Allegiant flies to Punta Gorda.

“Toledo is a good market for us. It’s just been very successful,” said Carl Zablotny, Allegiant Air spokesman.

Allegiant’s business model, he said, is to offer nonstop service with low fares from secondary cities and feature those fares as part of vacation packages that include lodgings and car rentals.

Two round trips a week is typical for most Allegiant routes, but additional flights can be set during peak periods or to busier markets, Mr. Zablotny said. Allegiant suspends flights to Florida for periods of weeks during slower travel times, such as September.

Port authority officials had struggled since DirectAir’s shutdown to find another carrier to fly to southwest Florida.

They hoped last spring they had a candidate with Vision Airlines, which flew twice weekly between Toledo and Myrtle Beach, S.C., during June and could have set up a Florida route during the winter. But those hopes were dashed when Vision canceled its Toledo flights at the end of June; it is now flying only between Tampa and Gulfport/Biloxi, Miss.

In September, port officials were on the verge of contracting directly with a charter operator to fly between Toledo and the Fort Myers area, but those plans unraveled later in the fall.

Mr. Toth said Tuesday that Allegiant had been the port authority’s choice to take over the Punta Gorda route after DirectAir shut down.

“They’ve got a proven business model, and Toledo is a proven market for them,” the port president said.

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.



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