Beginning next year, Allegiant will offer flights from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport to cities including Cleveland, Baltimore and Nashville, Tenn.
Allegiant announced today it will offer nine additional nonstop routes from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport in 2019, marking SRQ’s largest addition of new service in a year that has already been defined by growth.
In a release, Allegiant announced it will begin flying to the following cities next year: Asheville, N.C.; Baltimore; Cleveland; Columbus, Ohio; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Harrisburg, Pa.; Nashville, Tenn.; Richmond, Va. and Syracuse, N.Y.
Flights to all nine destinations will be offered twice a week year-round. One-way fares will start between $45 and $65, the airline announced. Allegiant estimated the flights will bring 160,000 people to the region annually.
Allegiant launched its first flights from SRQ in April. The airline currently provides service to Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and Cincinnati.
SRQ President and CEO Rick Piccolo said Allegiant’s decision to move into the airport has sparked an ongoing period of growth. Prior to today, SRQ had announced six other new nonstop flights in 2018.
“It started to build on its own critical mass and momentum,” Piccolo said in a previous interview with the Sarasota Observer. “Now, we’re getting more tire-kicking from the airlines, because they’re seeing the value system here.”
Today, Piccolo suggested the new Allegiant service would help continue that trend.
“I think this opens up other possibilities,” Piccolo said. “Will other airlines that are already here or not here react competitively?”
Airport and Allegiant officials credited Visit Sarasota County and the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau for helping bring the new routes to SRQ. Virginia Haley, Visit Sarasota’s president and CEO, said the tourism group went over its promotional budget by about $500,000 as part of an effort to secure the flights.
“It’s the one time I’m really happy to go over budget,” Haley said.
Haley said the promotional spending was designed to help ensure the routes remain successful. Visit Sarasota is working with Allegiant on a marketing strategy. She believes the investment will pay off — not only because it will bring more people to the region, but also because it gives Sarasota residents more options for flying out of their local airport.
Haley said the launch of the new routes next February will help offset the negative attention Sarasota has recently received among potential tourists because of red tide. She said travelers are enticed by direct flights at a low price point.
“It’s huge — because the leisure visitor, especially, wants it to be seamless,” Haley said.
Drew Wells, Allegiant’s vice president of planning and revenue, said the airline made the decision to expand based on the success of its first three routes and input from its customers. Although Wells said Allegiant valued flexibility in its future planning, he said the carrier was confident the flights it announced today will be a long-term success.
Piccolo said SRQ was taking steps to prepare for a spike in traffic during the upcoming season, but he said the facility is well equipped for even more growth. Wells thinks there’s reason to believe carriers will continue to see Sarasota as an enticing destination.
“It’s a destination that has been here the entire time,” Wells said. “It was a matter of us, as airlines, identifying it and starting that service. I think once you saw the first one come in, the dominoes started to fall.”