Charla Morton was disappointed when she heard Allegiant's nonstop flights from Casper to Mesa, Ariz., would not return next winter.
She was in the long line of travelers waiting to board a flight on Monday at Casper-Natrona County International Airport.
The flights, which began on Dec. 20, will end on May 13, said airport Manager Glenn Januska.
There were loud complaints about ending the flights from the people waiting to board on Monday.
Michelle Hoffman of Lander has taken the Allegiant flight four times since December, and she loves the convenience of a nonstop flight that gets her to the Mesa-Phoenix area in less than two hours.
“It’s as quick as the flight from Riverton to Denver,” she said, “and there’s no stop. I don’t know how many times I’ve been stuck in Denver” on other flights.
Rick Messina lamented the loss of a great bargain. “It costs almost triple the amount (to fly other airlines),” he said.
“Why?” was asked repeatedly by the travelers, who observed that most flights they had been on were full or nearly full.
Januska said Allegiant’s goal had been 90 percent occupancy for the 166-person flights, and that most flights were at 90 percent or close.
“I don’t think it’s a question of being full, but what they were selling seats for,” he said. Costs varied, but many tickets were as cheap as $106 roundtrip.
Casper businessman Rich Fairservis, co-founder of Granite Peak Development, also said the price might have been a factor in the airline’s decision. “They were just too cheap,” and didn’t promote the flights, he said. He has taken the flight every other weekend to visit family in Arizona and check on business interests there. He described a “bachelor’s club” of about 15 Casper men who regularly took the flight either to see family or to golf.
Allegiant had not returned a request for comment on Monday. Januska pointed out that Allegiant is “a travel company that happens to own an airline,” which means that it makes its profits from booking rental cars, shuttles, show tickets, hotels and tour packages along with the flight tickets.
He said the plan had been to suspend the flights for the summer when travel to Arizona tapers off but resume in September. But he was contacted by Allegiant with the news that flights from Casper to Arizona are not on the fall schedule.
He suggested that Allegiant was making money on the flights, but perhaps not as much money as it might make using the airplane for a different route.
Fairservis took a harsher tone. “The service was dead on arrival because of not promoting it. And it was too reasonable,” he said. He believes that people would have paid more for the flights to retain the convenience of them.
Allegiant will continue its successful Monday and Friday flights to Las Vegas, Januska said. That service will celebrate its fifth anniversary in September and the company is happy with it, he said.
“We’re certainly disappointed,” Januska said of the Mesa-Phoenix flights. “We go through a lot of work with an airline to get the service established. We think that there may have been some things going forward that we would have worked on, such as increased advertising or starting flights earlier in the year.”
He is not alone in being disappointed. The Casper-Arizona connection exists for many Wyoming people who are helping take care of elderly parents who live in Arizona or who plan to retire there themselves. Waiting to see a friend off on the Monday flight, Glenna Nash said she and her husband just bought a home in the Mesa/Phoenix area. “This is really handy. We want to be snowbirds someday” when she retires in four years.
The Mesa flights have contributed to the airport’s increase in numbers. Januska said that in April the airport had a 28.1 percent increase over April 2012.