Locals react to Allegiant Air’s announcement that it is pulling out of Lake Tahoe
Reaction Friday from the business community to the prospect of Allegiant Air pulling out of the Lake Tahoe Airport ranged from surrender to unbridled refusal to let air carrier service go down.
On Thursday evening, the carrier announced its plans to suspend service the next day in Lake Tahoe, Reno and Portland, Ore., due to rising fuel costs. Las Vegas and its home base of Fresno will continue to be served by Allegiant.
The abrupt notice didn’t deter plans to have air service to South Lake Tahoe, chamber board member Bob Attinger assured.
“Hopefully, we can resolve this thing,” Attinger said, insisting the idea of carrier service at the airport is not over. Upon notice, he said calls were immediately placed to Allegiant’s upper management, which he said pledged to review the possibility of coming back.
Attinger and chamber Director Duane Wallace have been meeting with other members of an ad hoc committee formed to save service at the airport, along with big business leaders, they said.
They declined to give any names for fear the disclosure may jeopardize any negotiations.
A plan on the table involves allowing big business to subsidize the cost of leasing two 32-passenger regional jets made in Germany that are quieter and more fuel efficient than those Allegiant operates, for starters. “They’re not your average jets”, Attinger said, pointing to an illustration of the jet architecture.
The cost of such a venture is unknown, said Attinger, who is open to another carrier with a good track record operating the jets.
“We’re very disappointed Allegiant pulled out the way they did,” Wallace said, taking issue with the sudden departure.
Allegiant’s timing was poor in more ways than one, some business leaders stressed.
“Unfortunately, they picked the ski season to pull out,” South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association Pete MacRoberts said. “We had hoped they would have given a fair shot during the good times,” he added, referring to the winter peak season.
MacRoberts expects the pullout will have some impact on tourism numbers, but he has noticed that about half his customers fly into the Reno Airport.
Harveys Senior Vice President of Marketing Jim Rafferty agreed.
“Any loss in seats into South Lake Tahoe is negative for the destination, but it’s not a devastating blow,” he said. He said he was optimistic an air carrier will be someday in place at the airport.
Ditto from the local ski areas.
“Sierra-at-Tahoe is a strong supporter of the Lake Tahoe Airport and will continue to build strong partnerships with the carriers that come in,” Sierra Director of Marketing and Sales Tracy Owen-Chapman said.
However, Allegiant’s withholding service into the mountain town won’t seem to affect business negatively, she added.
The same projection was made by Heavenly.
“We’re disappointed obviously because we would like to see service at the airport, but we don’t expect it will have major impact on our business,” Heavenly’s spokeswoman Monica Bandows said.
It’s also business as usual for Enterprise Rent-a-Car’s station at the airport. Manager Paul Hernandez said his rental car company gets little business from the airport, because its flagship market involves the local body shops.
Tahoe-Douglas Chamber of Commerce Director Kathleen Farrell believes efforts should be focused on eventually securing free-rider shuttle services to and from the Reno Airport.
“After a while, we have to accept the reality and move on. It’s a good lift into Reno,” she said.
Farrell also suggested that perhaps the Lake Tahoe community should turn to the west to service out of the Sacramento Airport.
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