Local Airline Thrives in Bad Economy - 8 News NOW

Reporter Edward Lawrence and Photojournalist Jason Boyd

Local Airline Thrives in Bad Economy

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The recession hit the travel industry very hard and the number of visitors coming to Las Vegas has dropped. But one airline based in the valley actually grew and is serving more passengers.

Allegiant Airlines has added flights and is still in the process of hiring. Their secret is finding their niche in something that no one else is offering.

Allegiant saw its total passengers increase in the first quarter of this year almost 15-percent form the same time last year and the company is making money.

From their headquarters in Las Vegas, Allegiant Air has grown from bankruptcy and just one plane in 2001 to flying 43 planes with more than 9,000 departures. Chief Financial Officer Andrew Levy has helped guide the company's boom even during this recession. He says Allegiant stuck to the core plan of targeting the leisure traveler in small town America.

"Those are customers that can be stimulated by price. We have very low costs so we are able to take our prices down to continue to stimulate ridership," said Andrew Levy, Allegiant chief financial officer.

There are no frills offered and you pay to check bags and if you want a reserved seat.  Even snacks, pillows, and blankets are all extra. Levy and the rest of his executive team looked at what Southwest did in terms of keeping down expenses. Then they looked for cities without much competition like Sioux Falls, South Dakota, or Grand Island, Nebraska.

"They have been doing it in the larger cities in the United States. We are doing basically the same thing except we are targeting smaller cities that have been ignored by the rest of the industry," Levy said.

The direct flights all go to resort destinations like Las Vegas, Orlando, and Tampa. Debi Norton flew to Las Vegas from Bismarck.

"They are actually half-price of the other two airlines that fly into Bismarck. The flight was wonderful," Norton said. Allegiant fills the planes by holding down the number of departures from the smaller towns. "They only go out Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. If you miss your flight you cannot go until that next day," she said.

So far, the business model has worked, even when the big carriers continue to struggle financially.

"We are creating jobs. We are hiring. We are growing," Levy said adding that Allegiant will stay the course because so far he sees nothing to fix. The airline employs 1,700 people with the bulk of them in Las Vegas. The company plans to add as many as 10 more planes and at least two more small towns to their schedule this year.

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