GARY | It was a beautiful morning to fly out of the Gary/Chicago International Airport on Saturday as Allegiant Air soared off into the southern skies for good.
The low-budget airline left behind a lot of satisfied, but discouraged, customers.
"I didn't realize until today it was the last flight," Anissa Rodriguez, of Whiting, said outside the terminal after returning from a Florida vacation. "It was my first time here, and it was much better than Midway and closer to home. I would have liked to come back."
Although the last plane left with scores of passengers, Allegiant cited a lack of "strong demand" for the Gary to Orlando/Sanford International Airport flights it began in February 2012.
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.
The others were all startups or teetering on the edge of bankruptcy when they started Gary service, but Allegiant continues to have a thriving leisure destination niche in the airline market.
Allegiant's departure will again leave the airport without regularly scheduled passenger service.
Carolyn Emory Johns, of Gary, who had a family member aboard the departing plane, said, "I'm very disappointed. It's a nice airline, and the price is great."
Beth Hewitt, of LaPorte, agreed.
"I put five kids on board for $600. There were some 100 people on board this flight. It's pretty sad because it's a nice airport."
Linda Spaulding, formerly of Crown Point and now a Lakeland, Fla., resident, said she enjoyed the flight to the region and wished she could return to the Sunshine State through Gary as well.
"It's too bad for the employees," she said.
Robert Bolden, of the Transportation Security Administration, is taking this latest setback in stride.
"I'll continue working at South Bend (Regional Airport). I used to come here just to vary my routine."