Outdoor travel market draws Allegiant | Business

Come summer 2021 it will be possible to step on a plane at Jackson Hole Airport and jet straight to Los Angeles for as cheap as $59 a leg.

A $49 fare could put you into Reno-Tahoe International Airport, which is potentially the smallest metropolitan area that’s ever been directly connected commercially through the air to Teton County, Wyoming.

Those new budget travel options come courtesy of the addition of Allegiant Air, which is the third new airline to add service to Jackson Hole since 2018. The Las Vegas-based carrier followed Alaska Airlines and Frontier Airlines, which joined the traditional legacy airlines that serve the valley: United, American and Delta. (Frontier discontinued its service during the virus-stricken summer of 2020 and has not indicated if it will return.)

Allegiant’s debut running flights out of Jackson Hole Airport this coming June through August was announced last week, and word came rather suddenly.

“Allegiant came together in just a matter of a couple of days,” Jackson Hole Airport Director Jim Elwood said. “They called and said, ‘Hey, we’re thinking about this. Will you send us the airport information?’ We sent it to them, and they called back and said, ‘We’re coming.’”

That’s better notice than some airlines have provided. Once, Elwood added, an airline didn’t give the airport any courtesy heads-up whatsoever, and staff learned of their new carrier in conjunction with the broader public announcement.

Allegiant, which is considered an “ultra-low-cost carrier,” will also be adding twice-a-week flights from Jackson to Las Vegas (starting at $49) and to Phoenix’s Mesa Gateway Airport ($59). The airline announced its new Wyoming destination alongside two other new cities and also in addition to eight routes delayed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Elwood said there was no local encouragement to Allegiant, from Jackson Hole Air Improvement Resources or elsewhere.

“I certainly think the pandemic has had an impact,” Elwood said. “If you look at airports that have had more activity post-pandemic, most of those are outdoor markets and the carriers are paying attention to those trend lines and responding accordingly.”

The numbers back up the assertion. Across the United States commercial air travel fell by 61% in 2020 compared with 2019. But Jackson Hole Airport fared relatively better, losing only 37% of its passenger numbers from the previous year.

An Allegiant executive suggested in a statement that outdoor recreation was a driving factor in his airline’s interest in expanding.

“The three cities we’re adding to our network — Key West, Portland and Jackson Hole — are gateways to some of the United States’ most scenic destinations, including national parks and other outdoor attractions that are in high demand,” said Drew Wells, Allegiant’s vice president of revenue and planning.

Although Frontier is out of the picture for now, Allegiant adds to budget airfare options that were until recently foreign to a market that serves the United State’s wealthiest per-capita county and an increasingly spendy place to visit.

“It certainly is something new and different for our market, and we’ll be anxious to see how it goes,” Elwood said. “We certainly welcome the new connections that they’re going to bring.”

At this point in the year it’s unclear what the rest of Jackson Hole Airport’s summer flight schedule is going to look like, Elwood said. The winter 2020-21 flight schedule topped out at 13 destinations, highlighted by a new Charlotte, North Carolina, flight offered by American.

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