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"A perfect city:" Why Allegiant Air took a bet on Jacksonville

May 3, 2016
Jensen Werley, Reporter
Jacksonville Business Journal

Allegiant Air will admit that launching flights to and from Jacksonville was a bit of an experiment for the Las Vegas airline.

When Jacksonville got connections to Pittsburgh a year ago, it was the first time the ultra-low cost airline connected two medium-sized cities, rather than its bread-and-butter formula of connecting small cities to vacation destinations.

“It was a bit of an experiment,” said Lukas Johnson, Allegiant’s senior vice president of planning, who spoke to the Business Journal. “But it was a success and it worked.”

Over the past year, Jacksonville has gone from having no flights from Allegiant Airline to nine, and the airline continues to be bullish on the First Coast.

After announcing new summer flights to destinations like Asheville and St. Louis, the airline is looking at Jacksonville as one of its major growth markets, possibly even basing planes and crews out of Northeast Florida.

Allegiant was looking for a new way to grow when it announced it would start flying direct to Jacksonville, Johnson said.

“Nobody else was flying medium-to-medium,” he said. “And we saw it as where the next level of growth for us was. We’ve changed and evolved our model where it’s not just about taking people in tiny cities to large destinations, it’s about going into any unserved market with pent-up demand.”

In the underserved markets, one-way fares can be up to $200-$300, always connecting to the major airline hubs before reaching the final destination. But Johnson said when they started flying to those cities, rates would drop 50 to 75 percent.

And for trying out this new model, Jacksonville was ideal: Not only did it have the beach and leisure aspects Allegiant normally looks for in a destination city, but it had growth potential — something that Allegiant has validated in naming nine more First Coast routes over the year.

To bet on a new business model using Jacksonville as a guinea pig might be surprising to those that wouldn’t guess Jacksonville would be at the forefront, but Johnson said it was a case of the risk not outweighing the reward.

“This was worth trying to expand our market size,” he said. “Jacksonville is a larger city. It’s not about two routes, or nine, it’s about 20 routes potentially. It has the potential to get up there.”

Johnson said the key to that growth is growing and creating a market share that didn’t necessarily exist before. By connecting Jacksonville to a city like New Orleans, Allegiant isn’t stealing passengers from other airlines, it’s targeting new passengers who don’t normally fly.

“We’re creating passengers who wouldn’t have taken that $300 flight,” he said. “But when a $300 flight from Jacksonville to New Orleans drops to $50, how many more people start to go?”

Johnson is confident that Allegiant — and its major competitors Spirit and Frontier — will be able to grow the market for some time, with room for all three.

“By the end of the decade, at our current growth rate, we’ll be close to 10 percent of the market,” he said.

Combined, the three ultra-low-cost airlines have had 14 percent annual growth since the recession, he said. The legacy airlines have grown one-tenth of a percent in that time frame. Southwest and Jet Blue have grown about 4 percent.

Johnson added that when you look at Europe, Ryanair — the leading low-cost airline — has become the largest domestic carrier, becoming a low-cost Southwest for the European set.

While Johnson said Allegiant doesn’t necessarily want to copycat what Ryanair has done, the company also has plans for big growth.

In the meantime, the next step for Jacksonville could be more flights from Allegiant, or even basing crews and planes out of the city. Because Allegiant’s cost-saving business model calls for basing its equipment and employees out of cities it flies to and ends the day’s routes in, that brings an economic boost and job growth to those base cities.

“We added flights to Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Asheville in the last 12 months,” he said. “All three were clamoring to be a base. It means job growth, hiring people, getting new routes, more utility and lowering fares. Jacksonville isn’t quite there, but it shares a lot of the qualities.”

Johnson said the city is too small for its major competitors, who also connect to large cities like the legacies do, which is an opportunity for Allegiant.

“It’s an Allegiant-sized city,” he said. “With most of our destinations, like Las Vegas, people are flying into Las Vegas. With Jacksonville, people are flying both ways…. For us, Jacksonville is a perfect city.”


Breeze Airways to Introduce New Nonstop Route from Jacksonville to New York City’s Westchester Airport

Breeze Airways is adding a new nonstop route from JAX to New York City’s Westchester Airport (HPN) starting June 30, from just $79 one way. Westchester is located just north of Manhattan.

This marks the eighth nonstop route for Breeze from JAX and the first new route announcement since the airline announced in March they would become the newest carrier at JAX, the single largest air service announcement in the airport’s history. 

“We are ecstatic to see Breeze grow in Jacksonville before their first flight has taken off,” Jacksonville Aviation Authority (JAA) CEO Mark VanLoh said. “The airline’s nonstop service to Westchester Airport will provide travelers with low fares and more options when traveling to New York.” 

JAX to:
•Westchester, NY (HPN) (Thurs, Sat and Sun, starting June 30, Nice from $79* and Nicer from $129).

JAX Airport Statement Regarding Masks in the Terminal

According to a statement issued by the TSA on April 18, the agency is no longer enforcing the Federal mask mandate at transportation hubs in the US, including at Jacksonville International Airport (JAX). Effective immediately, masks are no longer mandatory at JAX. 

However, those travelers who would feel more comfortable voluntarily wearing a mask while in the airport are encouraged to continue doing so. 

Breeze Airways Landing at Jacksonville International Airport with Nonstop Service to Seven Cities

Breeze Airways will be the newest carrier at Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) and offer new, nonstop service to seven cities starting this spring including: Columbus, Oh., Hartford, Conn., Las Vegas, Nev., New Orleans, La., Providence, R.I., Norfolk, Va., and Richmond, Va.  

“This is a really great day for Breeze and for Jacksonville”, said Breeze Founder and CEO David Neeleman.  “We like to think of ourselves as the Seriously Nice airline, bringing friendly service, low fares and nonstops to places that need them, so you don’t have to drive long distances or fly through connecting hubs. With Breeze, we’ll get there twice as fast, for about half the price.

“This is the single largest air service announcement in the airport’s history,” JAA CEO Mark VanLoh said. “Breeze Airways’ arrival in Jacksonville will be a game changer for Northeast Florida. The airline will offer service to several of our largest unserved markets. We look forward to their continued growth at JAX.” 

The flights schedule and introductory fares are: 

•Richmond, VA (Thurs and Sun, starting May 19, Nice from $49* one way; Nicer from $99*)

•Columbus, OH (Fri and Mon, starting May 27, Nice from $49* one way; Nicer from $99*);

•New Orleans, LA (Fri and Mon, starting May 27, Nice from $49* one way; Nicer from $99*);

•Providence, RI (Fri and Mon, starting May 27, Nice from $59* one way; Nicer from $109*);

•Norfolk, VA** (Fri and Mon, starting May 27, Nice from $49* one way; Nicer from $89*; Nicest from $99*);

•Hartford, CT** (Wed, Fri, Sat and Mon, starting June 3, Nice from $59* one way; Nicer from $99*; Nicest from $109*); and

•Las Vegas, NV** (Fri, Sat and Mon, starting August 5, Nice from $99* one way; Nicer from $189*; Nicest from $199*).

Breeze’s new nonstop flights are also likely to bring additional tourism to the Northeast Florida region: “To say we are excited about this announcement would be putting it mildly,” Visit Jacksonville President & CEO, Michael Corrigan said. “We are thrilled about this new partnership with Breeze for their huge commitment to Jacksonville and the Northeast Florida market and the ability to serve currently unserved destinations to our area. We expect big things to come in the future.” 
Breeze Airways will be the 10th carrier to offer flights from JAX. For fares, reservations, comprehensive flight schedules and more information, visit


*  Introductory fares promotion is only available when booking a new reservation and on select routes. Supply is limited. No advance purchase requirement applies. Promotion must be purchased by March 11, 2022 (11:59 pm ET) for travel by August 31, 2022.  Blackout dates are, but also not limited to, June 30, 2022, through July 5, 2022. Price, rules and routes displayed includes taxes & government fees. Prices, rules, routes, and schedules are subject to change without notice. Restrictions and blackout dates may apply.

** Route operated by A220 aircraft