July 23, 2008

Direct-to-Vegas Requests Top Gateway Airport Survey

By Donna Hogan, The Tribune, Mesa, Ariz.

Jul. 23--An ongoing Web survey that asks people where they'd like to fly to from Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport has garnered more than 10,000 votes so far.

And several thousand of the voters each want a bunch of options for a getaway from Gateway.

Nearly 4,000 want a direct flight to Las Vegas. More than 3,000 want to jet directly from east Mesa to San Diego. And more than 2,000 want to land in Honolulu.

Most of the Valley folks voicing a choice -- 65 percent -- live in the East Valley. Nearly half -- 45 percent -- of the out-of-state voters hoping for a direct flight to Mesa are from the Midwest.

Just because people want a destination doesn't mean an airline will fly there, said Brian Sexton, airport spokesman.

But the big numbers of people signing up to have a say proves Gateway is a viable hub for air service, he said.

"This will go a long way in convincing an airline to break into this market," Sexton said. "It demonstrates the public supports passenger service from Gateway. This community is hungry for air service."

Sexton acknowledges that it's highly unlikely any airline will start up new Mesa service while the economy is in such a bad state. But the ongoing survey will provide a big selling point when the U.S. financial scenario improves, he said.

And in the meantime, the thousands of wouldbe passengers might persuade Gateway's biggest service provider, Allegiant Air, to add Mesa destinations to its route map.

The local airport is fortunate to have one of only two U.S. airlines still in expansion mode during the downturn, he said. Besides Allegiant, Southwest Airlines is the only carrier adding instead of reducing capacity.

"We don't anticipate any new carriers coming here in the short term," Sexton said. "But we have high hopes for Allegiant as they expand into new markets around the nation."


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