DESTIN — Allegiant Air's Florida footprint is growing.
Allegiant Travel Co., the parent company of St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport's predominant carrier, is building a new two-airplane base at Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport, Gov. Rick Scott's office said Tuesday. The base — set to cost $49 million — will have two Airbus airplanes and add five cities to the airline's existing six from the airport.
"The base will not only afford many more options when it comes to adding routes and expanding service, but will also give us the opportunity to contribute even more to the community and the state's economy," Maurice Gallagher Jr., CEO of Allegiant, said in a release.
The new base will operate year-round. It will fly twice weekly to five new cities, include Bentonville, Ark., Concord, N.C., Lexington, Ky., Evansville, Ind., and Raleigh, N.C.
Allegiant expects the new routes to bring 25,000 travelers to the area, 65 jobs and $418 million in tourism revenue within five years, the release said.
The Airbuses are part of Allegiant's updated fleet of planes. The airline planned a phase-out of its aging MD-80 planes by 2019. An October 2016 investigation by the Tampa Bay Times found that significant mechanical problems with MD-80 fleet caused Allegiant to be four times more likely than other airlines to have an emergency landing in 2015.
Allegiant has been on an upswing in recent months. In January, it announced its 60th consecutive profitable quarter with $378.6 million in revenue for 2017's last quarter, up from $335.9 million the year before.
"We have achieved this record even as oil climbed above $145 per barrel and during one of the worst recessions in the country's history," Gallagher said at the time.
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