THE BOTTOM LINE: Help keep Allegiant Airlines flights at Sanford’s international airport
by William McDermott, Special to the Herald
December 23 2009 at 0849 | 859 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A recent announcement by Allegiant Airlines to take 10 of its 31 flights from Orlando Sanford International Airport to Orlando International Airport impacts our entire community, whether you fly or not.

Allegiant has served the Sanford airport for years and has been very successful – so successful that they have been the only airline in the United States to post a consistent profit during these challenging times.

Allegiant has been great for our airport, but with all due respect, our airport has been great for Allegiant, too. Serving smaller airports that are located near major airports, has been the successful business plan of Allegiant since it started flying.

The fares have remained low and customers have responded to take advantage of the opportunity to save their hard-earned money on airfare. Small cities around the Midwest quickly saw business grow at their airports as passengers boarded Allegiant flights to come to Florida – Sanford, Florida. In turn, our airport grew, quickly seeing passengers from 31 cities served by Allegiant, landing at Orlando Sanford International Airport.

Airports are good business for a community, and the economic impact of having an airport in a community is usually in the millions and in the case of larger airports the billions. The jobs that are created by airports are in the thousands, all with employees who pay taxes. Businesses locate at the airport, pay taxes and provide employment. The car rental companies pay fees and purchase gas for their fleet. And, the airlines pay fees, too, ranging from landing fees, to gate and counter rental fees.

Mainly, the airlines bring the passengers to our community – passengers that become visitors once they walk into the airport, visitors that spend money, visit our restaurants and shops, stay in our hotels, and go to our attractions, visit family and friends. Some visitors are looking at our community to possibly relocate their business here, while others are visiting to look for a home to buy. Regardless of the reason, the airline brings those passengers to our community, and last year Allegiant Airlines brought more than 1 million visitors to our community!

Allegiant officials have said that by moving their top 10 destinations from Sanford to Orlando International, customers will be closer to the attractions. This is true, and we cannot change the mileage.

However, the story that is not being told is customers are losing the convenience they have enjoyed by flying into Sanford. Few airports in America can boast that in under 30 minutes a plane can land and be at the gate, where passengers can disembark, get their baggage and be at their can. But you can do that at Orlando Sanford International Airport!

The convenience of our airport is priceless – no confusion when entering the airport by numerous directional signs, no mass of people, no trams to ride – convenience from the time you get there until you leave. Orlando Sanford International Airport is literally as friendly and as easy to get around in as a small town.

Allegiant plans to keep 21 of its flights at Sanford, but losing even one flight hurts. We must do what we can to assure that as a community, we have tried to keep the service at our airport. If you fly Allegiant once a year, or several times, or even if you have never flown, please take the time to send an e-mail to KeepItSimpleAllegiant@yahoo.com to voice your opinion about Allegiant moving its flights to the Orlando International Airport.

In the airport industry, officials often say “Use it or lose it” when referring to patronage of available airline flights and the available destinations. In our case, this has not been true – we DID use the service that Allegiant provided, and sadly, we may lose it. I urge you to e-mail KeepItSimpleAllegiant@yahoo.com to ask that Allegiant keep all 31 destinations at the Orlando Sanford International Airport.

Airports mean business – and we need air service at Orlando Sanford International Airport to keep our entire community growing.

William McDermott is the Seminole County economic development director and a regular contributor to The Bottom Line column in The Sanford Herald. He can be reached at wmcdermott@seminolecountyfl.gov.