Wednesday, August 22, 2007
It’s no mirage: Stockton to Phoenix for $59
Joe GoldeenBy Joe Goldeen
The Stockton (CA) Record
STOCKTON – Allegiant Air will begin twice-a-week passenger service between Stockton Metropolitan Airport and Phoenix beginning Oct. 26. Allegiant, the only commercial jet airline serving San Joaquin County, currently operates five flights a week between Stockton and Las Vegas. The announced nonstop service to Williams Gateway Airport, serving Phoenix-Mesa, Ariz., will start with an introductory fare of $59 one way and depart Stockton at 9:05 a.m. local time Monday and Friday mornings, arriving in Phoenix at 11:55 a.m. Mountain time. The Stockton-bound flight will leave Phoenix at 7:40 a.m. Mountain time and arrive in Stockton at 8:30 a.m. local time, also Monday and Friday mornings. “We are extremely pleased to again expand the Allegiant brand of low-fare, nonstop jet service within the San Joaquin Valley. This is an exciting new addition for our airline and our customers as we launch the only scheduled service between Stockton and Arizona,” said Maurice Gallagher, president and CEO of Allegiant Air, in a brief statement. Stockton Airport Director Barry Rondinella was excited about the new flights, calling it a good development for the airport. “Phoenix is a very good destination. There’s a big difference when America West was here – the cost of the tickets. Boy, that $59 is cheap. America West varied, but it was well over $100,” said Rondinella, referring to the last commercial airline that served Stockton and only flew to Phoenix. Several potential customers were equally pleased to hear about the expansion of service to Phoenix, especially those who book flights for Stockton’s sports teams.
“Any expansion of air travel out of Stockton is going to be good for Pacific athletics, especially if they’re competitive,” said Lynn King, athletic director at University of the Pacific.
Stockton Thunder hockey coach Chris Cichocki takes his team and staff of 24 on at least two trips a year to Phoenix to play the Roadrunners. And they also play in Las Vegas, but they had already booked their flights last year before Allegiant came to Stockton, beginning June 16, 2006.
He said he would “absolutely” explore flying out of Stockton for the convenience factor. When Cichocki heard about the introductory $59 fare, he said, “Wow! That’s good news for our owner.”
Tom Gonsalves annually takes about 60 players, parents and assistants to Phoenix each year for a national tournament as head coach of the St. Mary’s High School varsity girls basketball team.
“I’m really happy to hear about this. It would benefit us greatly, since it’s so expensive for us flying Southwest through Sacramento,” Gonsalves said.
Longtime business travel agent Margo Johnson with Segale Travel Service expressed some concern for professional travelers from Stockton.
“The hours are a little funny for business travelers,” Johnson said of the 11:55 a.m. arrival time in Phoenix with no return flight for several days.
Allegiant will use 130-seat MD-87 jet aircraft, slightly smaller than the 150-seat MD-80s it flies to Las Vegas five times a week Friday through Monday and Wednesday.
In announcing the new service, Allegiant said it has partnered with more than 20 Arizona resorts, providing air and hotel packages for as little at $265.
Allegiant’s $59 one-way introductory fare has some restrictions and will not be available on all flights. It must be purchased by Sept. 15 and is good for travel through Feb. 10.
After the introductory fare period, regular one-way fares will start at $79. By comparison, a one-way flight from Sacramento to Phoenix on discount airline Southwest leaving Oct. 26 is quoted on Southwest’s Web site at between $138 and $200.
Rondinella said news of the new flights “comes on the heels of our best month ever with Allegiant, with 2,905 passengers. That’s 500 to 600 more than our previous best month.”
Rondinella said it could be the best passenger traffic month the airport has had since at least 1991.
America West was Stockton’s only commercial airline from February 2001 to September 2003. Hampered by the aviation and economic downturns in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the struggling airline pulled out, saying it could not sustain any more financial losses on its dwindling Stockton-to-Phoenix flights.