There are no sure things in this city — with one exception: Allegiant Air.
While other U.S. airlines have struggled over the past decade from the ups and downs of the economy and the price of jet fuel, Allegiant has been profitable for 10 straight years.
The tiny airline focuses on a niche ignored by other airlines: It only flies from small cities to sunny vacation spots.
Allegiant entices people who otherwise wouldn’t fly with low fares and non-stop flights. Then it aggressively pitches them hotels, rental cars, show tickets and other entertainment, earning millions in commissions.
Passengers face fees for almost every service and amenity. At Allegiant, fees for checked baggage and changing an itinerary are just the beginning.
The Las Vegas-based airline charges extra to book flights online, or to use a credit card. Selecting a seat in advance costs $5 to $75 each way, depending on the length of a flight. Even a bottle of water costs $2.
Flying Allegiant isn’t glamorous. While other airlines tout new aircraft with Wi-Fi and TVs in every seat, Allegiant buys old planes to avoid hefty aircraft loans. And to pack in as many passengers as possible, its seats don’t recline. But for small-town Americans with limited flight options, these inconveniences are worth it for a few days of sunshine.
“They could be the worst airline in the world and we’d fly them because we want to go to Vegas,” says Tom Mayo of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who recently flew there with his family. “It’s our only option.”
Only 17 of Allegiant’s 203 routes are flown non-stop by another airline.
“Typically, the best way to make money is not to compete with somebody,” says Andrew C. Levy, president of Allegiant Travel Co., who sits in a cubicle next to the rest of his staff.
Once onboard, Allegiant passengers are again bombarded with sales pitches. On a recent flight from Cedar Rapids to Las Vegas, flight attendants came over the loudspeaker and hawked show tickets and airport shuttles.