August 10, 2007

Las Vegas Flights a No-Go

By Scott Schwebke, Standard-Examiner, Ogden, Utah

Aug. 9--OGDEN -- The city has rolled snake eyes in its gamble to land commercial jet service from Ogden-Hinckley Airport to Las Vegas.

Allegiant Air has broken off discussions with the city regarding the possibility of providing several flights a day between Ogden and Las Vegas McCarran International Airport, said Dave Harmer, the city's community and economic development director.

Allegiant has determined air service from Ogden would not be financially feasible because competitors operating from Salt Lake City International Airport might undercut its ticket prices to Las Vegas, Harmer said.

Officials with Las Vegas-based Allegiant could not be reached for comment.

The city had been involved in preliminary discussions with Allegiant to serve Ogden-Hinckley Airport with McDonald Douglas MD-80 jets capable of carrying 154 passengers. Allegiant links 50 small cities throughout the U.S. to leisure destinations such as Las Vegas and Orlando, Fla.

Despite the city's inability to land Allegiant, discussions are continuing with several other air carriers to provide service at Ogden-Hinckley Airport, said Harmer, who declined to identify the carriers.

Efforts also are under way to work with several air charter companies to bring flights to the airport during winter months to capitalize on amenities at Snowbasin ski resort, he said.

The airport prefers service by regional jets capable of carrying 60 to 90 passengers because the planes are not as noisy as MD-80 jets and wouldn't disturb nearby residents, said Ed Rich, the airport's manager. "We want to be good neighbors," he said.

While Ogden to Las Vegas service would have been a good start, Top of Utah residents and business travelers would benefit more from flights to larger regional destinations, such as San Francisco, Seattle and Phoenix, Rich said.

In addition, Ogden-Hinckley Airport is more convenient for Northern Utah travelers than Salt Lake City International Airport, Rich said. Ogden is also becoming a tourism draw for outdoor recreation enthusiasts, he said.

"I'm totally confident we'll get air service (at Ogden-Hinckley Airport) because we make such a good case for it," Rich said.

In preparation for possible commercial service, the airport is constructing a parking lot east of its terminal with space for an additional 300 vehicles.

The airport also has upgraded its Federal Aviation Administration certification to handle commercial flights and may eventually build a passenger terminal on the west side of the airport property, Rich said.

In addition, the FAA has awarded a $2.5 million grant to the airport for the construction of an 8,000-foot-long taxiway that will run parallel to the facility's main runway and should be completed in September 2008.


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