Race is on for Williams Gateway - East Valley Tribune: Business

Race is on for Williams Gateway

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Posted: Wednesday, August 1, 2007 10:26 pm | Updated: 6:50 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Chicago Rockford International Airport is so determined to land the first new flights from Williams Gateway Airport in Mesa that it’s asking Illinois residents to show Allegiant Air that they care by writing blogs and packing a minor league baseball stadium.

Allegiant announced Tuesday that it was establishing a hub at the Mesa airport and would be flying from the East Valley to 13 destinations around the country by Thanksgiving. The first route will be announced Aug. 9, with the rest unveiled by mid-September, Allegiant said.

The Las Vegas-based airline already has hubs at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas and two Florida airports — Orlando Sanford International Airport and St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport. Allegiant flies between those hubs and more than 50 other cities. The carrier announced Wednesday it plans to add a fifth hub at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida with service to 12 destinations.

Chicago Rockford airport officials said Wednesday they want to be on board for both the new hot spots.

“Most cities will not be getting either destination, some Phoenix-Mesa, others Fort Lauderdale, a few cities will get both. We intend to be one of the few getting both,” said Bob O’Brien, executive director of the northern Illinois airport, in announcing his new “I Pledge Allegiant!” campaign.

Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport is expected to be the new moniker for Williams Gateway Airport, pending a Board vote Sept. 17. An Allegiant spokeswoman said changing the name was critical to getting its business.

O’Brien previously told the East Valley Tribune that he was intent on having direct flights to the Valley this fall — to either the Mesa airport or to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

On Wednesday, he asked the Chicago-Rockford community to show support for the hoped-for new routes by writing so on an airport blog. The aggressive airport director also is enticing residents to show up in force at a Rockford RiverHawks game, proving they can pack a stadium as well as an airplane aimed for Mesa. O’Brien is sweetening the pot with contests for free airline tickets and game ticket discounts.

“The clock is ticking, literally, at the Allegiant Air Web site,” O’Brien said in a statement. “This morning it showed eight days, six hours and 18 minutes until the announcement of the next route. Clearly they are serious about the exactness of their Aug. 9 announcement.

We will use the Aug. 9 RiverHawks baseball game at Road Ranger Stadium as a platform to showcase our interest and support for Allegiant Air, with the hopes of being one of the first named cities.”

East Valley travelers should be equally hopeful. While seeking new passenger service, Williams Gateway airport officials asked local residents where they would like to fly to if they had their druthers.

In its Web-based “We Need You” survey, Illinois spiked to first place on the desired destination list, said Patrick Oakley, airport spokesman. “There’s always been a lot of interest in that area,” Oakley said.

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