Allegiant returns to Tahoe airport |

Allegiant returns to Tahoe airport

Allegiant Air landed at the Lake Tahoe Airport Saturday, and for the first time since November 1999, Lake Tahoe has commercial service.

City officials and Allegiant Air heavyweights turned out to support Allegiant’s return.

“We said we would be back when the conditions prevailed and the time was right,” said Mitch Allee, chairman and CEO of Allegiant Air, at an airport press conference that took place after the first plane landed. “We fulfilled a promise. We couldn’t be happier. We love you all.”

Although area residents are excited about the easy access to airline service, city officials and business representatives have their eyes on the tourist market and eagerly wait to see how Allegiant’s return will pan out.

When Allegiant Air President Jim Patterson was asked if Allegiant would make a profit right away, he said with a laugh: “I guess that you would hope that you would.”

Though, he insisted that prospects looked good.

“We have a strong demand so far,” he added.

While business owners cross their fingers in hopes of Allegiant’s success, the returning airline can expect a little helping hand from Tahoe’s tourism industry, which brings in 3 million visitors to the Basin a year.

“I expect as a startup process, it will take time to educate the consumer,” said Skip Sayre, general manager for Harrah’s Casino. “And we will have to build awareness.”

Sayre said Harrah’s plans to incorporate Allegiant Air into its marketing plan.

“I anticipate Allegiant will be a great marketing partner,” said Terry LeBan executive director for the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority.

The 3 p.m. arrival from Long Beach carrying 89 passengers – some of whom were Allegiant Air employees and Long Beach dignitaries – landed to the cheers of onlookers while the fire truck sprayed an arc of water over the taxiing plane, a gesture of show.

Show girls from Harrah’s, one decked in pink and two more dressed in black, posed for cameras and added to the festive atmosphere.

The departing flight took 69 passengers to Long Beach. The planes, DC-9s, hold up to 115 passengers.

“It is fabulous,” said Ed Price, a Tahoe local, while he waited to board the flight to Long Beach to visit family.

“It was impromptu,” he said. “I decided the day before yesterday.”

One arrival from the Long Beach flight, Malissa Ault, who was meeting a friend, planned her trip to Tahoe three weeks ago. She said that she would have come regardless of whether there was direct air service or not.

Area Transit Management is providing three shuttle vans, which will carry passengers anywhere in the South Shore for $5, said Ken Daley, ATM general manager. One is a 16-passenger shuttle and the other two hold 20.

From the first flight, 13 took a shuttle to Echo Lake, where they were going to camp. Another shuttle took seven passengers to Harrah’s, Harveys and Horizon.

Allegiant has hired four customer service representatives to handle airport traffic, according to Patterson. Oasis Aviation is providing ground services.

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