By Martin Kidston
Allegiant Airlines said Tuesday it will expand its summer service between Missoula and Los Angeles international airports to year-round, flying the popular route twice every week.
The carrier said the seasonal route is one of three it plans to expand starting in August.
“For the last few summers they’ve been operating that LA route as summer seasonal,” said Brian Ellestad, deputy director of Missoula International Airport. “It’ll be great for our customers to get back into the year-round market. It’s one of our top routes.”
For the remainder of the summer season, Allegiant will continue its non-stop service between Missoula and Los Angeles on Thursday and Sunday. Starting in August, the schedule will change to Monday and Friday.
The flight will depart Missoula in the afternoon.
“We met with them a couple of months ago and repitched the service and got the news about three weeks ago saying they were going to come into our market,” Ellestad said. “Air services is an ongoing relationship.”
The expanded service brings to three the number of cities Allegiant will serve year-round from Missoula, including Mesa, Arizona, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Service to Oakland, California, will remain seasonal, Ellestad said.
Earlier this year, Frontier Airlines also resumed its seasonal nonstop service to Denver. Ellestad said the airport continues to work on expanded or added service.
“We always have something in the hopper,” he said.
The Missoula Economic Partnership and local partners, including area businesses, are also working to establish a revenue guarantee to entice other carriers into the Missoula market, or help existing carriers expand their service.
James Grunke, president and CEO of MEP, said the chosen model will make incentive packages available for purchase, providing a stable source of revenue. MEP will begin selling the packages in July.
“We’d like to have a reliable revenue stream of $500,000 a year,” Grunke said. “We’d have a reliable source of revenue we can use both in pursuing federal grants, or cash to entice air service into Missoula. We want an increased number of flight options and increased competition.”
Grunke said area businesses have expressed interest in seeing United Airlines expand it seasonal service to San Francisco and Chicago to year-round. They also remain interested in landing American Airlines with nonstop service into the Texas market.
Grunke said Allegiant’s expanded service to Los Angeles represents a good starting point.
“It just proves the market to the other airlines, that there’s high demand here,” he said.