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Pinellas County
Allegiant Air receives national honor
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Photo courtesy of ALLEGIANT AIR
Allegiant Air has been named the top-performing airline in North America by Aviation Week for the third consecutive year.
CLEARWATER – Allegiant Air has been named the top-performing airline in North America by Aviation Week for the third consecutive year by the aviation magazine, and it also was ranked second in the Top 10 overall rankings worldwide.

Additionally, the airline placed in the top spot worldwide in the small carrier category for the second consecutive year.

Allegiant beat out Spirit Airlines for the Top 10 North America ranking, with Spirit coming in second. Delta Air Lines was fifth, Southwest seventh and American 10th.

Allegiant was also less than a point behind the overall winner, the Latin American airline, Copa Holdings.

The top-performing airlines study uses data from the previous calendar year to score airlines in the areas of financial health, earnings performance, capital efficiency and business model performance, and the resulting score is used to rank the airlines, according to Aviation Week. It uses the data from all publicly traded airlines.

“We are proud to be the top performing airline in North America,” said Andrew Levy, Allegiant president and chief operating officer. “It is a testament to our relentless dedication to building a consistently profitable company, as well as the innovation and hard work of our great team members. We look forward to continued growth and strong financial performance.”

The airline is celebrating 15 years of service and has been at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport (nicknamed PIE for its airport code) since 2006, according to Lindsay Hernquist, spokeswoman for Allegiant. The airline currently has about 30 routes that serve PIE, with upwards of 100 flights a week during peak season and about 80 flights a week on average. About a million passengers traveled through PIE on Allegiant in 2013, according to Jeff Clauss, director of air service development and marketing with PIE.

Allegiant keeps rates low by flying limited routes to lesser-served airports and only offer flights on select days to ensure the flights are as full as possible. Flights can even be less than $100 in one direction.

“We don’t offer (flights to each city) every day, and that is mainly because we prefer 90 percent load factor for all of our flights,” Hernquist said. “And with that, we focus on leisure travelers so we’re not having people travel every day. We’re not looking at business travelers flying real fast up for a business trip and fly back down, which is why we typically do a Thursday/Monday or a Friday/Sunday flight pattern. That’s just because we’re filling our planes when we fly them, which keeps our prices low, instead of flying half-full planes and passing that cost onto our passengers.”

However, if the demand is there, then Allegiant adds more flights and more routes, she added.

When Allegiant came to PIE in 2006, it offered about six routes, and now that has increased to 30 and is continuously expanding.

The next list of route additions should be released at the end of July or August, she said.

“One of the main routes that we just added was Cincinnati, and that’s a city that historically had really high airfare because it was more of a business market,” Hernquist said.

Allegiant initially introduced that route as a seasonal one, but it was so popular that it now flies there year-round.

Another new year-round route is to Stewart, New York, which is about ah hour outside of New York City.

Hernquist said low-cost airlines like Allegiant help the local economy because it reaches a wider range of people who can afford to travel to the area.

“We have a lot of people coming into the Tampa Bay area, really helping stimulate economic spending as they’re bringing their money with them and are spending it in the community,” Hernquist said. “We have a lot of snowbirds who go back and forth to visit their grandchildren. Just having that low-cost option is convenient.”
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