At last night’s City Commission meeting, much of the discussion centered on the commissioners’ approval for the new airport and a proposal for an agreement with Allegiant Air that would include carrier incentives.
Manhattan airport, which is only under contract with American Eagle airlines, is currently in negotiations for a new contract with Allegiant Air once the American Eagle contract ends. In the proposal, the city of Manhattan would offer Allegiant Air a carrier incentive in order for the chain to offer flights from the Manhattan Airport. However, some commissioners raised questions about Allegiant Air’s form of business.
Allegiant Air is an airline that brings leisure flight destinations to smaller communities. According to Peter Van Kuren, airport director and staff liaison for the airport advisory board, this type of airline is highly sought out.
“There’s a lot of smaller communities that would like to have this airline, and so those small communities would have to offer incentives,” Van Kuren said. “So there’s going to be a concern from the governing body to know that the airline isn’t only seeking incentives, and that’s a good thing to do.”
Manhattan Airport is looking to receive $200,000 from the City Administration’s economic development funds to execute Allegiant Air’s carrier incentive.
Van Kuren presented a powerpoint that depicted the airline’s business model. Since it is an airline with leisure destinations, the airline would encourage customers purchasing flights to add additional packages such as car rentals, hotels or simply a good game of golf.
Since the airline drives for this type of business, commissioners were concerned that if the airline did not see revenue coming from these types of bundles, the airline would simply pull out of the city abruptly.
Commissioner Wynn Butler raised some points of concern about Allegiant Air.
Butler told the rest of the commission about information he’d found on the airline’s public records, which detailed them leaving about 13 cities.
“What I gathered from that was that some of those cities they left had 90 percent occupancy on the flights, but they still terminated service because they are making more of their money as a travel agency selling packages,” Butler said. “And the people flying out of those cities were not buying the services on the other end.”
One of Butler’s main concerns was that Manhattan’s aircrafts could have full occupancy, as have past airlines who have worked with Allegiant Air, and the airline would still end their contract if they’re not making enough money from their package services.
According to Van Kuren, the airline’s business model is to take people from smaller communities to desirable destinations. The type of business Allegiant Air pursues are the packages they offer to costumers.
Along with Allegiant Air’s package bundles, they offer low fares and direct services. In addition to the new destinations the airline will be marketing, Manhattan Airport is looking to compete with surrounding airlines from Salina, Topeka and Wichita.
Commissioner Karen McCulloh made some positive comments about the airline being so affordable.
“I talked to someone — they were flying to Tucson for a meeting, and they found it was inexpensive enough that a woman could take her husband along,” McCulloh said.
Butler agreed that the airfares Allegiant Air offer customers are reasonable and positive. If the community accepts Allegiant Air’s business, it was said that they would also consider adding on new destinations such as Las Vegas.
After lengthy discussion, the proposal was accepted, cementing Allegiant Air as Manhattan Airport’s next carrier, as soon as American Eagle’s contract is up.
American Eagle, Manhattan Airport’s current airline, is currently receiving no economic incentive to operate out of Manhattan Airport. The commission hopes that when Allegiant Air takes over, Manhattan residents will support their business model so that, after time, Allegiant Air may no longer need an incentive to stay in Manhattan.