Allegiant Air again interested in Gary

2011-12-09T11:44:00Z 2011-12-11T00:35:05Z Allegiant Air again interested in GaryBy Keith Benman keith.benman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3326 nwitimes.com
December 09, 2011 11:44 am  • 

Allegiant Air again is expressing interest in flying out of Gary/Chicago International Airport, just 2 1/2 months after hopes were raised and then dashed that the airline would begin Gary-to-Las Vegas flights.

There will be no Allegiant flights out of Gary this year but "very possibly" there could be in the first quarter of 2012, said Allegiant spokeswoman Kristine Shattuck-Cooper. She would not say what the destination will be.

Keith Hansen, Allegiant director of airports and facilities, will be at the Gary airport Monday to discuss "future opportunities" with the airport authority board at its regular meeting, Shattuck-Cooper said.

On Sept. 27, airport workers were unfurling banners to welcome the airline to Gary and officials were promising a "major airline announcement" the next day. By nightfall, airport officials said they suddenly had learned that the "operational limitations" of Allegiant aircraft would prevent them flying out of Gary and called off the announcement.

Airport Director Steve Landry said at the time the railroad embankment that sits just 130 feet from the end of the main runway was the main impediment and stressed the need to complete the airport's $153 million expansion plan because it removes that obstacle.

At that time, Allegiant planned on operating flights between Gary and McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.

On Friday, Landry said he could not comment on whether Allegiant again would be attempting to land at Gary. He said the airport and its terminal remain open and ready to welcome any airline that wants to fly out of Gary.

Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority Executive Director Bill Hanna on Friday said his organization remains focused on aiding the airport in getting the expansion project done. He said it is encouraging that airlines appear to still be interested in Gary.

"If we continue to focus on the right things and get the runway extension done, this should be the first of many," Hanna said.

Gary has been without regularly scheduled airline service since startup Skybus Airline flew out of the airport for just 23 days in spring 2008 and then folded.

Allegiant flies to Las Vegas out of more than 30 cities already and operates flights from more than 70 airports in the U.S. Those airports include South Bend Regional in Indiana and Chicago Rockport International Airport in Illinois.

Allegiant offers low fares from small- and mid-size cities around the United States to major tourist destinations with a fleet of 51 MD-80 jets seating between 130 and 150 passengers.

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