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Huntsville airport to announce plans for low-cost airline service

By Bayne Hughes 340-2432

HUNTSVILLE — Huntsville International Airport is expected to announce Wednesday at a 10 a.m. press conference that low-cost airline Allegiant Air will begin offering service here.

Tyri Squyres, director of corporate communications for Allegiant, would not confirm the announcement but did say that Allegiant has been in discussions with the airport.

"We view Huntsville as an ideal location," Squyres said. "We've spoken about flights to Las Vegas and Florida."

Huntsville International Public Relations Manager Laura Gipson said the airport would be making a "major announcement." The timing is ironic considering The Wall Street Journal called Huntsville a "high-fare airport" in its Tuesday edition.

Allegiant operates mostly out of three main hubs — Las Vegas, Orlando, Fla., and Tampa Bay, Fla. — and has flights into about 50 U.S. cities. Squyres described her airline as a "leisure carrier" that carries passengers to holiday destinations, using MD 80 jet aircraft that accommodate 130 to 150 passengers. Squyres said the airline usually starts with limited service of two days a week to one destination, and then adds service as demand grows. The press conference should include the initial destination.

"Since we're trying to stay a low-fare provider, we usually start with a conservative schedule of limited frequency," she said.

In June, Allegiant began a new service out of the Greenville-Spartanburg airport in South Carolina to Las Vegas, offering $89 one-way, introductory fare.

The airline recently announced that it carried 281,977 passengers in June, a 57.5 percent increase over June 2006. In the second quarter, Allegiant flew 753,716 passengers, compared to 476,174 in the second quarter of last year.

The June load factor was 88.6 percent, an increase of 3 percentage points over the year-earlier capacity usage. Allegiant does not release figures specific to airports. The airline is a wholly owned subsidiary of Allegiant Travel Co.

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