Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Flight from Owensboro to Las Vegas Coming Soon

Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport expects Allegiant Air to add nonstop jet service to Las Vegas by the end of the year, Airport Manager Bob Whitmer told Daviess Fiscal Court on Monday.

Fiscal Court approved an 83 percent increase in its allotment for the airport -- from $55,429 a year to $101,429 -- to help with the airport's increased operating costs as traffic improves dramatically.

Last year, with Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air offering two nonstop flights a week to Orlando, Fla., the airport reached the 10,000 passenger mark for the first time in a decade and qualified for $1 million in federal funding for capital projects.

That money cannot be used for operating expenses, however.

Already this year, Whitmer said, the airport has boarded more than 5,000 passengers and is on track to reach the 15,000 mark for the first time since 1993.

Allegiant will have three flights a week to Orlando this year.

Next year, with direct flights to Las Vegas twice a week, Whitmer said boardings could top 20,000.

Last summer, Allegiant shut down its operations locally between Aug. 8 and Oct. 14 because of slow late summer traffic. This year, Whitmer said, Allegiant will continue to fly during that period.

"When you look at the potential," County Commissioner Bruce Kunze said, the extra $46,000 "is a good investment."

"Allegiant is the most successful airline in the country," Whitmer said. "We're the envy of a lot of communities."

Because of the increased service, he said, the airport qualified for $3 million in stimulus money last year, which included $675,000 for a large fire and rescue truck that could help attract cargo planes at some point.

Before Allegiant can add the Las Vegas flights, Whitmer said, the airport has to move utility lines that are in the takeoff path for large planes that need the entire 8,000-foot runway.

Fully loaded 150-passenger jets with enough fuel to fly to Las Vegas will need that extra room, he said.

The runway was finished two years ago. With Allegiant wanting to use the runway, the Federal Aviation Administration has made moving the lines a priority and will pay for the work, Whitmer said.

He said the airport has successfully negotiated with one of the two property owners whose land is involved in moving the power lines and is working with the other.

The airport also needs to secure a 5,000-gallon fuel truck before the Las Vegas flights can start.

But Whitmer said he expects the power lines to be moved this fall and the Las Vegas flights to begin by the end of the year.

Keith Lawrence, 691-7301,