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Allegiant Air to inaugurate LAX service

The low-fare airline will begin rolling out service to a dozen small cities in May, including Monterey, Calif., and Des Moines, Iowa. Introductory one-way fares will be $99 or less.

February 19, 2009|Peter Pae

Flying from Los Angeles to smaller communities west of the Mississippi may get a little easier and cheaper this spring.

Low-fare Allegiant Air said Wednesday that it would begin offering nonstop service from Los Angeles International Airport to a dozen small cities, including Monterey, Calif., with one-way fares as low as $39.

The Las Vegas carrier said it would begin rolling out LAX service May 1 with nonstop flights to Medford, Ore.

Other destinations that will be added in May include Billings, Mont.; Des Moines, Iowa; Fargo, N.D.; and Grand Junction, Colo.

Introductory one-way ticket prices for those destinations will range from $59 to $99, the airline said.

Though the start of LAX service will target leisure travelers flying from small cities that have limited regular passenger air service, Southern California travelers visiting family and friends are also expected to benefit with cheaper nonstop service.

Flying to smaller communities has often required multiple stopovers and higher fares than flights to larger cities that have several competing airlines.

Flights from LAX to Billings in May were averaging about $175 one way with at least one stopover if booked Wednesday.

Allegiant on Wednesday was offering an introductory fare that was less than half the price with travel time that was at least an hour or two shorter.

Though little-known, the carrier is one of the nation's most profitable and has been expanding while most other airlines have been retrenching because of the recession.

"We're not a known brand in L.A., but we're well known in places like Fargo and Bellingham [Wash.]," said Tyri Squyres, spokeswoman for the airline.

Allegiant also has one of the more unusual business plans. It provides inexpensive air service to leisure travelers typically from smaller communities in the nation's colder regions flying to Sun Belt destinations such as Orlando, Fla.; Phoenix; and Las Vegas.

It uses the warmer destinations as bases for flight operations.

For instance, from its headquarters in Las Vegas, the airline flies to 39 destinations, bringing fair-weather seekers to the warm-weather city while flying transplanted Midwesterners to their hometowns for visits with family and friends.

The airline has also been able to offer low fares by keeping costs down. It flies older 150-seat MD-80 jets, which were built in Long Beach in the 1990s. It has been able to acquire the jets for a fraction of the cost of buying new jets of similar size.

Allegiant also starts new service slowly, initially offering only two flights a week. It increases frequency only when demand rises.

Other destinations from LAX will be Wichita, Kan.; Springfield, Mo.; Sioux Falls, S.D.; Missoula, Mont.; McAllen, Texas; and Bellingham. Allegiant plans to operate out of Terminal 6 at LAX.

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peter.pae@latimes.com

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