Allegiant plans flights to Mexico

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Las Vegas-based low-cost carrier Allegiant Air plans to launch flights to Mexico in late 2013 or early 2014, adding the first international service to its network.

The airline's chief financial officer Scott Sheldon says the carrier is targetting destination markets like Cancun, and also routes between small towns in Mexico and Las Vegas and Orlando.

Allegiant had served Mexico previously through charter flights but not scheduled operations. The carrier is now working on a number of hurdles to break into the Mexican market, such as establishing a bilingual website and a Spanish speaking call centre, says Sheldon at the Raymond James Institutional Investors Conference today.

Allegiant began service to Hawaii last year after operating only in the continental USA. It had previously expressed interest in launching flights to Mexico but backed away in 2009, citing challenges with US customs. It said then that Mexico flights would only work if US customs opens pre-clearance facilities in Mexico, as Allegiant then served small US airports with no customs facilities that cannot handle commercial flights.

Allegiant's new A319s will be used to operate the Mexican flights. The carrier's executives had said before that the A319 would allow the airline to operate to certain airports in high or hot conditions in Mexico which the Boeing MD-80 cannot reach.

The carrier hopes to put two A319s into service in the second quarter. Allegiant's Sheldon says the airline conducted its first A319 flight on 1 March.

Besides the two A319s, Allegiant will add two A320s in the third quarter and five A320s in the fourth quarter.

The carrier has also completed a seat reconfiguration project on 51 Boeing MD-80s, which involved adding 16 seats to each aircraft for a total of 166 seats on board.