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Allegiant Air plans expansion to isles

The carrier intends to fly to Hawaii by next summer, says a spokeswoman

By Jennifer Sinco Kelleher
Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 2:26 p.m. HST, Aug 5, 2011

An airline that connects small cities with leisure destinations has received federal certification to fly a bigger plane, a step toward providing future service to Hawaii.

Allegiant Air is aiming to add Hawaii as a destination by summer of next year, company spokeswoman Kristine Shattuck-Cooper said Thursday.

"Hawaii is a natural destination for us," she said. "We're always looking at new and different locations that fit our business model." She said it's not yet known which cities the Hawaii flights are to service.

The airline, part of Las Vegas-based Allegiant Travel Co., announced Wednesday it obtained approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to begin operating Boeing 757-200 aircraft. To begin travel between the mainland and Hawaii, the airline also needs Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance certification and Flag Carrier status from the FAA for the 757-200.

The airline plans to first use its 757 on existing routes connecting Las Vegas with McAllen, Texas, and Rockford, Ill.

Allegiant focuses on linking small cities, generally with underserved airports, with leisure destinations such as Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Orlando, Fla. In some small cities, there wouldn't otherwise be a nonstop flight to those destinations.

The airline's business model would complement existing service to Hawaii, which is out of traditional big-city hubs, said David Uchiyama, Hawaii Tourism Authority's vice president for brand management.

"I think it's ideal in trying to stimulate first-time travelers to Hawaii," he said. "That's an important segment we're continuously trying to cultivate."

The tourism authority has been working with Allegiant for about 2 1⁄2 years, Uchiyama said.

Allegiant was founded in 1997 in Fresno, Calif. The airline filed for bankruptcy protection in 2000, and its major creditor took control of the business, leading to a restructuring and its headquarters' relocation to Las Vegas.

Allegiant exited bankruptcy in 2002 and entered into a contract with Harrah's Entertainment, now Caesars Entertainment Corp., to provide charter services to its casinos.

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