The change opens up three air carrier flight slots out of the 41 available at the airport. Airport Director Mario Rodriguez said airport staff have already reached out to other airlines and expect to fill Allegiant's slots right away.
"We have more demand than space," Rodriguez said. "When we made calls to airlines, everybody wants those slots because they are a valued commodity."
One of the four airlines already serving Long Beach - Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue or US Airways - could use the slots, or Rodriguez said a new airline could be introduced at the airport. Staff is working now to get the word out about the vacancy and have one or more airlines ready to fill the three slots as soon as Allegiant departs.
News of Las Vegas-based Allegiant's move out of Long Beach Airport comes after Frontier Airline's final departure from Long Beach in April this year. Both Allegiant and Frontier first began serving Long Beach in the spring of 2010.
Rodriguez said Allegiant's decision to cease operations in Long Beach might in part be due to competition from JetBlue. Both airlines offer flights between Long Beach and Las Vegas.
"Allegiant was focusing more and more on Vegas, and JetBlue has a strong presence from here to Vegas," he explained. "Although load factors were high for both airlines, they were competing."
The airport director said Allegiant, which sells airline tickets as well as travel packages, has a different business model than other airlines, and that Allegiant has had a tendency in the past to pull in and out of airports.
Rodriguez said the silver lining of Allegiant leaving Long Beach is that the loss will not mean a loss in destinations offered by Long Beach Airport because Allegiant's routes to Las Vegas will be available through JetBlue.
"We are not going to have any routes changed because we still have flights to Las Vegas," he said. "In fact, now we have the capability of acquiring more destinations than we do now... We will be able to provide more choices and service to new cities."
Rodriguez added that the market in Long Beach is strong and appealing to many airlines. Passenger seat totals from Long Beach Airport have increased by 4% since last year, despite declining trends at other airports.
Another possible benefit to Allegiant leaving Long Beach is that another airline with newer, more environmentally friendly (and perhaps quieter) airplanes may use the slots. Rodriguez said Allegiant's MD-80 fleet consists of more vintage airplanes than some other carriers.
It is unclear if Allegiant, which has expressed interest in offering flights someday between Long Beach and Hawaii, would be interested in returning to Long Beach Airport in the future. Allegiant officials were not available for comment before press time.
Rodriguez said that even if Allegiant isn't the one offering flights to Hawaii in the future, he believes another airline will someday add that route.
Allegiant customers who have purchased tickets or have questions about the change should visit the company's website www.allegiantair.com.
Gazette Newspapers Long Beach California)