Allegiant Air’s Las Vegas flights in and out of Duluth on Monday night were the last for the Northland.
With its flight arriving from Las Vegas at 7:40 p.m. and one departing Duluth around 8:30 p.m., the airlines ended nine years of service in Duluth.
The discount airlines serving vacation destinations entered the Duluth market in 2006 with direct Duluth-Las Vegas service. In 2009, it added non-stop flights between Duluth and Orlando-Sanford, then added Phoenix service in 2011.
Passenger numbers built from 2006 to 2012, then started to decline. In response, Allegiant eliminated Duluth-Phoenix service in July, than ended the Orlando service in September, after a series of seasonal suspensions.
In January, airport director Tom Werner told the News Tribune that those Las Vegas flights were more than 70 to 75 percent full, which was an acceptable level for Allegiant. But an Allegiant spokesman said its target was 90 percent capacity. Most of the planes used for the Duluth Las Vegas service were Douglas MD-80s which seat 166 passengers.
So why did the twice-weekly Las Vegas flights’ popularity decline?
“You can’t beat it, you can’t beat the price, and the Duluth airport’s so easy,” said one co-worker who routinely used Allegiant’s Duluth-Las Vegas service.
But another frequent Duluth traveler to Las Vegas would fly out of the Twin Cities airport instead, saying the Allegiant “nickel and dimed you” too much.
Yet another co-worker drove to the Twin Cities last winter for his flight to Las Vegas. Even factoring in the cost of gas and parking, he said he found a better deal on a combination of hotel, air fair and car rental than what Allegiant was offering. Moreover, the two days a week Allegiant flew in and out of Duluth were inconvenient for him.