Airline says lack of 'strong demand' behind Gary departure

2013-05-28T16:42:00Z 2013-05-29T21:59:04Z Airline says lack of 'strong demand' behind Gary departureBy Keith Benman, (219) 933-3326

GARY | Allegiant Air stated Tuesday a lack of demand for its low-cost flights from Gary to Orlando/Sanford International Airport was behind its decision to end service on the route in August.

The emailed explanation in response to a Times inquiry came on the same day of a regular meeting of the Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority.

At the gathering, the Airport Authority offered few clues as to why the airline will exit Gary.

In response to an inquiry from The Times, Allegiant emailed a statement.

"We are always disappointed to end service in a community," the airline statement said. "The airport has been a great partner to us, but unfortunately, we were not seeing a strong demand in the market, and we have a responsibility to use our resources where they are most successful."

Meeting for the first time since it announced Allegiant's decision in a Friday night news release, Airport Authority members appeared frustrated but resigned to the end of regularly scheduled passenger air service at their airport.

"Allegiant Air has a history of doing this kind of thing," said Airport Authority Vice President Marion Johnson. "It's not just a Gary thing. They have done this in all parts of the country."

Airport Director Steve Landry cited a May 17 letter from Allegiant where it stated the twice-a-week flights from Gary to Orlando did not meet its "revenue model."

The last Allegiant flight departs Gary for Orlando/Sanford International Airport on Aug. 10. It is the only regularly scheduled airline at the airport. Allegiant started service between the two airports in February 2012.

During Allegiant's time at Gary, airport officials have consistently said passenger loads on flights were exceeding Allegiant's minimum requirements.

Starting with Pan Am in 1999, Allegiant is the latest in a line of six airlines to test the waters at Gary before pulling out. In contrast to Allegiant, which has a thriving leisure destination niche in the airline market, the others were all start-ups or teetering on the edge of bankruptcy when they started Gary service.

The end of Allegiant service also will mean the end of car parking revenue for the airport, which was generated by a $7 per day parking charge. However, Landry said the savings on utility and terminal upkeep should offset most of that loss.

Allegiant did not pay landing or parking fees for its planes at the airport, as part of a package of incentives for providing service.

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