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Peoria Airport Adds Fort Lauderdale To Allegiant's List Of Florida Flights

210810 Peoria International Airport.jpg
Joe Deacon
Peoria International Airport

Central Illinois travelers will soon have another Florida destination among their options for direct flights from Peoria.

Allegiant Air announced Tuesday it will begin nonstop service from Peoria International Airport to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood beginning Dec. 15.

210810 Airport director Gene Olson.jpg
Joe Deacon
Peoria International Airport director Gene Olson discusses Allegiant Airlines offering nonstop flights to Fort Lauderdale beginning in December during a Tuesday news conference.

“Allegiant’s business model is built on connecting underserved communities, underserved in terms of air service, and connecting them to the fun places that they want to go, and Fort Lauderdale is just another one of those,” said airport director Gene Olson.

“I think it just says that Allegiant has a lot of confidence that they have not found the bottom of the market here yet and that they can still tap additional travelers that want to go to those places.”

Fort Lauderdale is the only one of Allegiant's six Florida destinations from Peoria on the east side of the state. The airline currently offers flights to Orlando, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Destin, and Punta Gorda.

“Generally, Allegiant is flying around with pretty full airplanes; they're doing pretty well,” said Olson. “They're at about 15% higher capacity nationally now than they were in 2019. Most other airlines are flying around at something less than what they were flying and in 2019. So, Allegiant is doing really well and the communities that are supporting Allegiant are also doing very well.”

Olson said Allegiant will offer two flights a week, starting with Wednesday-Saturday in December then switching to Thursday-Sunday for six weeks starting in January before switching back to the original days through May. The service will feature introductory one-way fares as low as $59.

“It's seasonal for now, pretty much like everything else that they have been trying lately,” said Olson. “If it's supported and is successful, then usually Allegiant follows through with longer seasons.”

Olson said the December-to-May offering for the Fort Lauderdale flights should attract strong interest.

“Their peak season is through the winter months, and this goes right through the Christmas holiday, and right through the spring break time period,” said Olson. “So we should see, with a couple of flights, about 360 departing passengers a week. That's a pretty good boost for us.”

Olson said PIA had 52,800 passengers in June and 54,400 in July, with the monthly totals steadily increasing from around 25,000 at the start of the year and 37,000 in the spring.

“Those are approaching normal levels. I mean, those would have been normal in, say, the 2009-11 timeframe,” he said, noting June and July of 2019 both exceeded 60,000. “That was a record-setting year, so we're not back into record territory by any means. But we are seeing healthy numbers again.”

Olson said there’s no way to tell yet if Florida’s current COVID-19 surge might reduce travel to the state.

“I'm not a psychologist and can't really predict what individual people are going to decide, and we don't know what the pandemic is going to do between now and December,” said Olson, adding Allegiant stuck with its pre-pandemic plan to offer flights to Nashville even after the COVID-19 outbreak. “So if they're willing to start a city like Nashville in the middle of a pandemic, I'm pretty sure that they're going to feel pretty confident about Florida.”

Olson noted masks are still required in airports and on the airplanes, but flights have not instituted any passenger limits as COVID-19 cases rise.

“The airplanes have been full, but what they've done in a period of reduced travel demand is they reduced the number of flights,” he said. “So even though we had fewer passengers, we still had full airplanes.”

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