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— When the calendar turned to 2009, lowcost carrier Allegiant Air was nowhere on the flight schedule at the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport. Come Nov. 16, Allegiant will have a third service destination - this one Orlando - from XNA.

Look at the numbers for the first two announced destinations - Los Angeles and Las Vegas - and it's pretty easy to track the logic behind why the Las Vegas-based airline spread its roots here so quickly.

"Their Los Angeles and Las Vegas flights (to and from XNA) are running at 95 to 96 percent load capacity," XNA director Kelly Johnson said. "Allegiant has told us on several occasions they're very happy with us."

Hence, the upcoming addition of Orlando.

Beginning Nov. 19, Allegiant, which prides itself on its low fares, will begin flying between XNA and Orlando with introductory fares as low as $69.99 each way. The airline will run two flights weekly on Thursday and Sunday, arriving at Orlando Sanford International Airport. Flights will depart XNA at 6:15 p.m., arriving in Orlando at 9:35 p.m. Flights leaving Orlando will depart at 4 p.m., arriving at XNA at 5:35 p.m. (All flight times are local.)

Allegiant began nonstop flights to Los Angeles on May 22 and service to Las Vegas on June 4.

"For us, northwest Arkansas is perfect," Allegiant spokeswoman Tyri Squyres said. "It's an underserved market in that it really didn't have a low-cost option to go on vacation. Normally, Allegiant doesn't add destinations so quickly, but this particular airport has been a very good partner with us, and the demand has been there."

The Tuesday announcement puts Orlando back on the XNA flight calendar for the first time since September 2005, when Delta Airlines, which had started flying from XNA to the popular sunshine destination just three months earlier, filed for bankruptcy.

Located midway between Orlando's world-class attractions and Daytona Beach, Orlando Sanford International Airport offers visitors the opportunity to relax on the beach or experience the fun of Disney World, Universal Studios, SeaWorld and other worldclass attractions. Allegiant will utilize 150-seat, MD-80 series jet aircraft on the route.

And, as is the case with its Los Angeles and Las Vegas, Allegiant will offer complete vacation packages, in addition to lowcost airline tickets. The Allegiant Vacations division of the company offers low-cost packages with 58 of Orlando and Daytona Beach's most popular hotel properties, according to information provided by the company. Air and hotel packages start at $214.98. That price is based per person on a three-night hotel stay at the Comfort Inn Lake Buena Vista, double occupancy, and reflects a Thursday arrival with a Sunday departure.

According to a release issued Tuesday by Allegiant, the $69.99, one-way introductory fare must be purchased by Sept. 30 and is valid for travel through Feb. 10.

Following the introductory fare period, regular oneway fares on the route will start at $89.99.

"The unique thing about Allegiant is it's a travel agency that just happens to own 43 airplanes," Johnson said. "They definitely have a niche market. What's important for people to remember, consumer air service is perishable. If we don't use it, we'll lose it. But the numbers have been very good to Los Angeles and Las Vegas so far."

An American Airline jet is refueled at Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport before take off last year. Another NWA carrier, Allegiant Air, has added Orlando, Fla., as a destination point.

News, Pages 3 on 09/16/2009

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