Allegiant Air to start flying Concord-Orlando

Concord Regional Airport will soon have its first scheduled passenger air service, with low-cost carrier Allegiant Air beginning flights from Concord to Orlando, Fla., in December.

The airline, which offers only low-fare trips from small markets to leisure destinations, will fly from Concord to Orlando twice weekly, on Monday and Friday. The round-trip tickets will start at $99, although customers must book travel by Thursday to get that special rate.

Allegiant is the first airline to start regular passenger service from Concord Regional and will be the only passenger airline in the region not operating from Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

Concord Regional has applied for a $250,000 federal grant to help market the new air service and has also said it would spend $100,000 of local money for the same service. The airport would waive Allegiant’s terminal rent or landing fees for two years to keep its costs down.

“Allegiant is dedicated to making vacations more affordable for more people, offering our customers the lowest possible base fare and nonstop service to the most popular vacation destinations,” the company’s president, Andrew Levy, said in a statement.

Concord Regional officials said the airport plans a press conference Thursday to announce more details. A Concord Regional official said the city hasn’t yet received the federal grant, but Allegiant’s service isn’t contingent on the grant.

Also Tuesday, Allegiant announced it would begin nonstop service from eight other cities, including Tulsa, Okla., and Bismarck, N.D., to Orlando.

To keep costs low, Allegiant flies older aircraft that it buys cheaply and often flies to secondary airports at its destination cities.

Both of those are true of the Concord-Orlando flights. An Allegiant spokesman said the flights will be operated on 166-seat MD-80 jets. The flights will go to Orlando-Sanford International Airport, a smaller airport than Orlando International about 26 miles north of downtown Orlando.

The airline also charges for a wider range of services than most airlines, including $10 to $35 for a carry-on bag if the bag is booked in advance. If passengers arrive at the gate without having paid for a carry-on bag, the airline charges from $35 to $75 for the bag.

In their application for the federal grant, Concord Regional officials said that airfare from Charlotte Douglas is prohibitively high for many travelers in the Concord region.

“Passengers into and out of Charlotte pay more, per mile, for their fares than those traveling in and out of any other airport in the east,” airport officials wrote.

The cost to fly from Charlotte Douglas is 22 cents per mile, compared with 19.5 cents per mile from Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and 19.3 cents per mile from Washington Reagan National Airport. That’s also above the average cost of 16.5 cents per mile to fly from an East Coast hub, Concord officials said.

Airfare analyst George Hobica, president of AirFareWatchDog, said he doesn’t think the new Allegiant flights will do much to bring down the cost of flights in the Charlotte region.

“I don’t think it will have much effect on fares from Charlotte due to the infrequent schedule and small size of planes,” said Hobica.

Concord Regional is considered a “reliever” airport for Charlotte Douglas, and handles a large number of private charter and general aviation flights. The airport said more than 40,154 passengers used the airport, mostly on charter flights.

The airport hopes to also add service from Concord to Las Vegas, Tampa/St. Petersburg and Fort Lauderdale/Miami.

Charlotte Douglas saw 41.2 million passengers last year. About three-quarters of travelers using Charlotte Douglas are connecting passengers changing planes at the airport, which is heavily dominated by US Airways.