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Allegiant’s service to Hawaii pushed back to 2012

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Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air is delaying its expansion into Hawaii by a year.

The carrier, which plans to fly from small cities that don’t offer nonstop service to the islands, said at a company investors presentation that regulatory issues have delayed the planned start of service to Hawaii until 2012.

Allegiant, which hasn’t announced city pairings, said earlier this year it was purchasing six used Boeing 757-200 aircraft that could be used for Hawaii routes and was targeting 2011 to begin Hawaii service.

Maurice Gallagher, chairman and chief executive officer of the airline’s parent, Allegiant Travel Co., said Tuesday during the investors conference that the company is now targeting Hawaii for the second half of 2012 after reassessing the situation during the last 30 days.

"We felt it was better to break the process down into bite-size chunks rather than swallow the elephant whole at one time," he said. "We talked to some carriers and were told that getting ETOPS authority (certification to fly over water) is a tough process, it’s time-consuming and it takes a lot of resources. We want that to be our full focus when we go into it."

In addition to getting ETOPS authority, Allegiant needs to get its newly acquired Boeing 757s on its operating certificate and get "flag status" that will allow Allegiant to fly routes beyond the 48 contiguous states, such as to Hawaii.

Gallagher said Allegiant already has the first two 757s in its fleet, plans to acquire two more over the next two months and expects to obtain the remaining two 757s in November 2011. He said the company will amend its Hawaii plans and familiarize itself with the 757s by using the two it currently has for Las Vegas routes.

"We’ll focus on running the airplane in and out of Las Vegas," Gallagher said. "We want to learn how to run it. We want to learn corporate experiences. We want to understand our maintenance aspects — anything that has to do with the safe operation. We’ll create revenue. It’s not Hawaii, but it’s the same as Hawaii in the sense that what we’ll do here is sell packages, bring passengers out here on a vacation-oriented thing."

Gallagher said Allegiant will lease the next two 757s for 12 to 18 months to a European carrier.

The company’s existing fleet is comprised of MD-80s, which don’t have the range to fly to Hawaii.

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