Allegiant finds Florida growth in wake of Direct Air’s collapse

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Allegiant Air is taking advantage of expansion opportunities at a little served southwest Florida airport thanks to the 2012 demise of a small low-cost carrier called Direct Air.

Allegiant chief financial officer Scott Sheldon says today Allegiant will increase its service at Punta Gorda, which is on Florida's west coast between Fort Myers and Tampa.

Las Vegas-based Allegiant will have four aircraft based at the airport by the end of the year, says Sheldon, who was speaking at the Cowen Securities Global Transportation Conference in New York City.

Sheldon credits the expansion to the shutdown of now-defunct Direct Air, which was based at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina but had a notable presence at Punta Gorda until it ceased operations in March 2012.

Direct Air stopped flying shortly before its parent company filed for bankruptcy protection.

"We have been growing [in Punta Gorda] ever since," says Sheldon. "It's been a nice bit of unexpected growth for us."

In 2013, Allegiant's capacity from Punta Gorda, where it is the only scheduled air carrier, will hit 191.5 million available seat kilometres (ASKs) in 2013, up from 100 million ASKs in 2012 and 68 million ASKs in 2011, according to data provider Capstats.

In 2013, Allegiant will have 876 departures from the airport to places like Lexington and Knoxville in Kentucky, Fort Wayne and South Bend in Indiana, Greenville in South Carolina, Toledo in Ohio, Niagara Falls and Plattsburg in New York and Springfield, Peoria and Rockford in Illinois.

In 2009, Allegiant operated fewer than 200 departures from Punta Gorda to Knoxville and Greenville.

Direct Air operated roughly 20 weekly flights at Punta Gorda in 2011, serving many of the same destinations now served by Allegiant, according to Capstats.

Direct Air's capacity from Punta Gorda spiked at 154 million ASKs in 2011, when it had 208 flights.

Another carrier to serve Punta Gorda, Las Vegas-based Vision Airlines, also stopped flying to the city in 2012.

Vision, which flew to Champaign in Illinois and Fort Walton Beach in Florida, had 2.5 million ASKs from Punta Gorda in 2011, according to Capstats.