Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

United axes Colorado Springs-D.C. route; Allegiant launches service to Phoenix

2 photos photo - Mike Vrana unloads gate-checked baggage from an Allegiant Air flight Wednesday, July 28, 2010, at Colorado Springs Airport. Allegiant Air begins twice weekly service Sept. 15 to Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport and Long Beach, Calif..    (Kevin Kreck, The Gazette) + caption
Mike Vrana unloads gate-checked baggage from an Allegiant Air flight Wednesday, July 28, 2010, at Colorado Springs Airport. Allegiant Air begins twice weekly service Sept. 15 to Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport and Long Beach, Calif.. (Kevin Kreck, The Gazette)
By Wayne Heilman Updated: May 16, 2014 at 9:24 am

United Airlines will end daily nonstop flights between Colorado Springs and Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C., on Sept. 20 because the route is "not meeting expectations," a spokeswoman for the Chicago-based carrier said Wednesday.

The airline has offered the flights since 2010 through SkyWest Airlines, which operates as United Express, on 70-seat regional jets. The route had been sought for more than a decade by business leaders to serve military personnel and contractors traveling to the Pentagon.

Wednesday's announcement came the day before Allegiant Air's scheduled debut of its twice-a-week nonstop flights to Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, resuming service to the Arizona's largest city for the first time since April 2013.

Mary Clark, a United spokeswoman in Houston, said the airline will contact ticketed passengers and offer them options. The carrier will still offer multiple daily flights from Colorado Springs to its hubs in Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The elimination of the Springs-Dulles flight comes three weeks after United reported first-quarter losses of $609 million, or $1.66 a share, including $120 million in one-time charges and write downs stemming from winter weather that forced the cancellation of 35,000 flights. United CEO Jeff Smisek said when the loss was announced April 24 that the airline is "taking appropriate steps with our operations, network, service and product to deliver significantly better financial results."

Dan Gallagher, director of the Colorado Springs Airport, said he is "very disappointed we are losing service to Washington, D.C.; it is a big loss. But we still have a very strong and healthy market. This is less about our market than it is about United and their business model."

United, which carries more than half of the passengers traveling from the Springs airport, was filling an average of 55 seats on the aircraft, or 78 percent, with most of the passengers connecting on other United flights to destinations beyond Washington, D.C., Gallagher said.

The United announcement comes 13 months after Denver-based Frontier Airlines halted flights from the Springs to Denver, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego and Orlando, Fla. Frontier's departure triggered a 20.9 percent drop in passenger traffic last year to 650,529 - a 22-year low.

Since then, Alaska Airlines began daily nonstop flights between Colorado Springs and Seattle in November and Allegiant will launch service to Phoenix on Thursday.

The Allegiant flight is the first win for the Colorado Springs Airport in the wake of a year-old effort to cut costs for airlines following Frontier's departure. Airport officials reduced expenses by 22 percent by refinancing bonds, eliminating open positions and taking other steps, which enables them to reduce the rent and fees airlines pay by 40 percent.

Allegiant operated twice-a-week flights between the Springs and Phoenix-Mesa from 2010 to 2012 but stopped the service after Frontier began its daily nonstop flights to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. In resuming its Phoenix route, which operates Thursdays and Sundays, Allegiant will use 166-seat Boeing MD-80 aircraft. One-way outbound fares booked at least two weeks in advance range from $37.50 to $107.50 and inbound fares range between $44 and $84. The flights will take a seasonal break from Sept. 1 to Oct. 27, when demand on the route is low.

Allegiant also operates nonstop flights four days a week between the Springs and its Las Vegas hub, a route it has operated since 2002. The route is reduced to two flights a week on a seasonal basis starting Aug. 14.

The ultra-low-fare carrier specializes in offering discounted vacation packages that include hotel rooms, entertainment and rental cars from 88 smaller airports like the Springs to resort areas that include Las Vegas, Phoenix and 11 other cities in California, Florida and Hawaii.

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Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234

Twitter @wayneheilman

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DETAILS

Allegiant Air celebrated its resumption of flights between Colorado Springs and Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport with introductory promotional one-way fares starting at $65.

The fares aren't available on all flights and travel must be purchased by May 29 for travel by Aug. 29. The fare includes taxes and fees but must be purchased with a debit card. Allegiant charges additional fees for using credit cards, seat assignments, any baggage and refreshments.

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