Valley travelers will be able to fly directly from Mesa to 13 new destinations — many of them likely to be in the Midwest and Northwest— by year end.
But anxious passengers will have to wait another week or so to find out where they can book their next vacations.
Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air, which flies to and from more than 50 destinations around the United States, said Tuesday it is establishing a hub at Williams Gateway Airport.
The first landing spot will be revealed Aug. 9, and a dozen more will be announced by mid-September, said Ponder Harrison, Allegiant managing director.
Flights on two 130-seat jets dedicated to the Mesa airport will begin Oct. 25, and Allegiant will be flying to all 13 destinations by Thanksgiving, said airline spokeswoman Tyri Squyres.
For most routes, round-trip service will be twice weekly, she said.
While McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas is the company’s home base, it will not be one of the 13 new Mesa routes, Squyres said. Vision Air, now the Mesa airport’s only scheduled passenger service carrier, already flies twice weekly to North Las Vegas.
Besides, Allegiant’s forte is ferrying passengers from cooler climates to sun destinations, she said.
But two former Williams Gateway favorites — Bellingham, Wash. and the Chicago area — are good bets for Mesa service, Squyres said.
“We have a strong presence in Bellingham and in Chicago-Rockford (Ill.) and five or six other Illinois cities,” Squyres said.
Two start-up airlines — SkyValue and Western — filled up planes with people traveling between Mesa and those cooler climes earlier this year, but both carriers went belly-up for financial reasons unrelated to the popularity of the routes.
Allegiant, unlike those start-ups, is a full-service air- line that operated 20,000 flights last year and has been profitable for four years, Harrison said.
He said the company is not announcing all the locations at once because several of the airports in contention for service to Williams Gateway are vying for the business.
“These are markets that you can’t get to directly now,” Harrison said.
A name change to Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, scheduled for a vote on Sept. 17, was critical for getting Allegiant to sign on, Squyres said.
“It was very important for us to have the Phoenix name as an identifier,” she said.
Williams Gateway officials and local tourism leaders have been trying to land an airline and a destination at a time for Mesa.
They are thrilled with Allegiant’s decision to launch a baker’s dozen at once.
“This is a giant step,” said Robert Brinton, executive director of the Mesa Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“We’re talking about multiple destinations with direct routes to cities that will have a strong interest in air service (to Mesa). This is good for us and for the entire East Valley.”
Phoenix city manager Frank Fairbanks said Allegiant’s commitment is a huge boost to Williams Gateway’s efforts to become a real regional airport and reliever to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
“It’s been a struggle, but this is the beginning of big things,” Fairbanks said. “The success of Williams Gateway is not only important to Mesa and the East Valley, but it’s critical for the aviation future of the whole region and the state. In time, there will be lots of airlines out here.”
Williams is ready for the huge influx of new business, said Lynn Kusy, airport director.
He has notified the Transportation Security Administration about Allegiant’s plans so the government can provide sufficient security screening services, he said.
Kusy also notified the airport’s food and beverage supplier that it will need to beef up food services. The airport also gets a new rental car service, Alamo, and will likely put a gift kiosk in the lobby, Kusy said.
Harrison said as soon as Allegiant announces a route — that is, as early as Aug. 9 for the first destination — passengers can begin making reservations online at www.allegiantair.com or through the airline’s central reservation system at 702-505-8888.
• Vision Air, an established charter carrier, began scheduled service to and from North Las Vegas in April 2006.
• SkyValue, a start-up carrier, began scheduled service to Chicago-Gary, Ind., Dec. 15 and stopped May 5.
• Western, a start-up carrier, began service to Bellingham, Wash., Jan. 19 and stopped Feb. 5.
• Vision Air said it plans to launch service to Long Beach, Calif., by year-end.