ToquiNotes: When it Comes to New, Expanded Flights by Allegiant at NCWV Airport, News is Good and Bad

By Jeff Toquinto on May 20, 2023 from ToquiNotes via

It has been a month since North Central West Virginia Airport Director Rick Rock headed to Las Vegas to meet with Allegiant at its annual conference.
You traveling folks remember this annual conference?
It is the one where Rock has pitched for about a decade now the NCWV Airport, Bridgeport, and the state of West Virginia as he tries to add new destination flights through Allegiant and tries to enhance existing flights in place. The same scenario unfolded during the three-day conference April 18-20.
Before talking about what was pitched, what was explained, what is hoped for, and what is unlikely to happen as a result of the conference, a few qualifiers. First and foremost is that Allegiant is a destination service, which means it is not used for the purpose of connecting to other locations as is the daily service with Contour Airlines to Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
Second, before asking why the airport does not have a flight to here or there and you cannot understand why they do not have that flight, the airport does not make those decisions. The airlines make those decisions. The NCWV Airport will not be turning down any flight service by any airline that offers it. That said, airlines are not exactly overflowing with new services, and it is much rarer occurrence at rural airports of which ours here in Bridgeport qualify.
Third, and this has happened, there will not be flights offered to either North or South Dakota, remote parts of Maine, or Alaska. While Rock would sign off on those if offered – and they will not be – you also have to have a market to sustain those flights on a regular basis. For those random areas brought up with nearly every Allegiant story, there is essentially no demand despite the occasional statement of disbelief that flights to those places do not exist and no one is trying to get them.
With that out of the way, Rock’s recent trip to Vegas produced some good news and some not so good news when it comes to destination flights. And the news is on adding new flights and expanding existing service.
“The best news, and the one we always strive for during each of the last 10 years, is the feedback from Allegiant is that we’re doing well, and they’re pleased with us and our numbers. Once again, we received a good grade from Allegiant, which keeps the door open for a lot of things,” said Rock.
And this:
“We also got good feedback on Destin, which I was concerned about, because we had a little bit of trouble that led to issues, but they were happy with the numbers and the outlook is still good for St. Petersburg, Myrtle Beach, and Orlando.” he said.
While that is some positive news from an operational standpoint, there was news Rock nor anyone else attending the conference wanted to hear. Yet, it was news he expected to hear.
“Basically, the message to everybody was at this time Allegiant is not looking to expand,” said Rock. “You felt that going there because of the pilot shortage, which they said was a major factor, along with other issues impacting airlines right now.”
While those on hand were told not to expect anything new, Rock said it did not stop him from “running some ideas by them” regarding what he thinks Allegiant can do for the NCWV Airport and what the airport can do for Allegiant.
“The main thing we want is to try and get an extension of that Myrtle Beach service,” said Rock.
One thing is for certain. It will be starting at roughly the same time as it has in the past. The first flight is in early June, said Rock. What he is still holding out hope for, even in light of Allegiant saying no on expansions, is enhanced service to Myrtle Beach.
In layman’s terms, he is hoping Allegiant will bend and extend the flight past the mid-August ending date that has been in place since it began. And he does not think the door on that is closed.
“Knowing that new flights were either impossible or unlikely at best, I focused mainly on extending the flight because of how popular it is for our travelers. Our community can support it, and it’s the number one thing we hear from our community,” said Rock. “We managed to have a good conversation with the person in charge of network planning. I think it’s still a real possibility perhaps even this year or, if things improve, definitely next year.”
Rock said he understands, and he told Allegiant officials in light of the current situation, that all decisions are marathons and not sprints. That said, he knows running that marathon would be a whole lot more tolerable if new flights or extended flights could be added with a $25 million terminal opening next year.
“We want to maximize our opportunities with the new terminal, and we see Allegiant as a key partner in that direction,” said Rock.
With the terminal set for a 2024 opening, Rock said he discussed a few destination flights. Still leading the list are hopes of getting into Nashville, which is a market Allegiant is serving and was expanding offerings to until the recent nationwide pilot shortage. But there were others.
“I threw in Las Vegas, which I always do … The main thing after hearing about the pilot issue was to make sure the relationship is strong, and it is,” said Rock.
Rock said he let Allegiant know he believes the NCWV Airport could easily support a flight to the Northeast. He said he would welcome a flight in the Boston, New York area for destination purposes through Allegiant, which he said the local market analysis’ show there would be usage.
“I told them we were interested in those markets or any market they may happen to enter into. I actually told them to use us as a guinea pig,” said Rock. “I let them know if they’re considering a market in the northeast, or anywhere for that matter, use us. We have a lot of people in West Virginia and even surrounding states that love to travel from our airport. We’re all in.”
That last sentence would be hard to argue, even amidst news regarding the pilot shortage impact beyond the airport’s control. And it would be hard to argue against you, the passengers, being all in. The support from the community is what makes Rock’s ability to make pitches heard and sometimes acted on as opposed to being dismissed outright.
I always feel good about the possibility and talk of new flights. Well, expect for talk about ones to Bismarck, North Dakota.
Editor's Note: Top photo shows an Allegiant plane in flight, while bottom photo shows passengers boarding an Allegiant flight in Bridgeport. Middle photo shows NCWV Airport Director Rick Rock. 

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