Allegiant Air will pull out of Tahoe |

Allegiant Air will pull out of Tahoe

Sally J. Taylor

After four months of scheduled air service at Lake Tahoe, Allegiant Air officials announced on Friday that they will suspend flights out of the Lake Tahoe Airport as of Oct. 19.

“It became painfully clear to us that Lake Tahoe could not support two carriers that are both in a building phase themselves as well as building the marketplace,” said Allegiant President Jim Patterson, referring to both Allegiant, based in Fresno, Calif. and Tahoe Air, based at the Lake Tahoe Airport.

Allegiant began flights between Lake Tahoe, Burbank and Las Vegas on June 3. Tahoe Air began service June 25 and flies to Los Angeles, San Jose and plans service to San Diego.

Allegiant will continue to offer charter service to Lake Tahoe, as it had before beginning scheduled flights. The airline is considering service to Long Beach, Patterson said.

Ticket holders for flights originally scheduled for Oct. 19 or later can expect full refunds within 14 days. Customers and those inquiring about flights will be referred to Tahoe Air, Patterson said.

Employees will be offered positions elsewhere.

Allegiant officials have not ruled out a return to the Lake Tahoe market once air travelers get used to the idea that they can fly directly to Lake Tahoe.

“Certainly, we would never shut that door,” Patterson said. “We’re leaving as gracefully as we can leave.”

Airport Management Assistant Janis Brand, who said she has enjoyed a good working with Allegiant for eight years, hopes the day comes soon.

“I hope and pray when they get started (in Long Beach and are successful there), they’ll remember us,” she said. “I want them back here.”

Brand called the airline’s withdrawal a “huge disappointment” but admitted it was not a surprise.

“Burbank is just too expensive (for a small carrier) to operate out of,” she said.

Allegiant’s departure “is not the failure of Lake Tahoe. Two airlines can’t be successful as startups in essentially the same market.”

Brand feels the Lake Tahoe promotions that Allegiant began in the Las Vegas and Burbank area will continue to help the Lake Tahoe Airport. “Now that they’ve had the service, they’ll seek it wherever it is.”

Both Allegiant and Tahoe Air have been flying with passenger loads substantially below the break-even point. Although the number of passengers has steadily increased, the load factor in August was 29.2.

“We thought we’d reach the 50 percent (load factor) by August,” Patterson said. “When we looked at both carriers, it was dismal. The challenge has been dividing up the local residents.

“Tahoe Air has played the trump card of being Tahoe’s local airline.”

Despite the windfall Tahoe Air could receive as Lake Tahoe’s only scheduled service, its officials were subdued on Friday.

“We’re very disappointed,” said Tom Davis, Tahoe Air’s director of community marketing and a South Lake Tahoe City Councilman. “We never viewed them as competitors. It was beneficial to us to have two airlines marketing in different areas.”

Davis said that Tahoe Air, which 19.5 percent of its seats filled in August, expect eight to 10 months before it has enough passengers to turn a profit.

“Anything worth doing is difficult,” said Duane Wallace, executive director of the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce and a member of the committee that sought airline service. “Yes, there are those who will jump on the can’t-be-done bandwagon. I’m just not one of those people.

“I still believe that an airline, Allegiant or Tahoe Air or whatever, has a positive impact on the economy. It’s incumbent on the community to support Tahoe Air even more.”

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