December 6, 2017 View in browser
When considering new routes, U.S. discount airline Allegiant Air has a simple strategy: It flies where other airlines do not.

It's a profitable approach. But it requires the airline's network planners — the people who pick new routes — to be creative. Allegiant is growing, but its planners can't rely on obvious routes, like New York to Chicago, or L.A. to Seattle. Usually, they must build markets where none exist.

That's how, about five years ago, Allegiant created a base in Punta Gorda, a Western Florida airport with no commercial service. Today, Allegiant flies from Punta Gorda — it's between Fort Myers and Sarasota — to more than 30 smaller- and medium-sized cities, including St. Cloud, Minnesota; Knoxville, Tennessee; Springfield, Illinois; and Des Moines, Iowa. Allegiant is so bullish on the service it's building a resort hotel and condominium property nearby so it can sell vacation packages to passengers.

As an air market, Punta Gorda was "discovered" by Lukas Johnson, the airline's senior vice president for commercial. Now, Allegiant is building a base in Florida's panhandle, expanding at Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport. Other carriers fly there, but focus more on shuttling business traffic to their hubs.

Expanding in Destin, which Johnson calls a "huge success," is a project led by Kristen Shilling-Gonzalez, Allegiant's director of planning.

For a story published Monday, I spoke to Shilling-Gonzalez about what she's looking for in new routes, and how Allegiant decides which aircraft to use. She was candid, explaining why Allegiant sometimes cancels routes before they start, telling us why the airline can't use its MD-80s in the Las Vegas summer heat, and revealing that travelers who tend to drive between two points are a target market. She also gave us the scoop on why Allegiant doesn't like coast-to-coast routes, and when the airline will fly abroad.

What do you think of Allegiant's unusual approach? Do you think Allegiant is smart to stick with its niche? Or should it compete with big airlines more often?

Let me know by emailing me at Or find me on Twitter.
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Air France-KLM Starts Operating Hipster-Focused Joon
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No, Delta Didn't Really Go 'Cancel-Free' Over the Thanksgiving Holiday
On Monday, Delta said it hadn't canceled a Delta or Delta Connection flight in November. That may have been technically accurate, but The Points Guy discovered Delta left out an important detail. Its reporter found SkyWest canceled a Delta Connection flight on Nov. 26, and while Delta operated a replacement, it didn't depart until 18 hours later. By that time, most of the original Skywest passengers had probably reached their destination. Officially, that might not have ended Delta's perfect streak, but for passengers, it was essentially a canceled flight.

Leahy Reflects on 33 Years at Airbus
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IATA, the global international airline trade group, predicts total global airline profits will hit $38.4 billion in 2018, about $4 million more than it forecasts for 2017. ...This summer, United Airlines will fly high-density Boeing 777-200s — with 28 seats in business and 334 in economy — from Newark to Dublin, Madrid, and Barcelona. It had only been flying these 777s on domestic routes, though they fly long segments, including Guam-Honolulu. ... Spirit Airlines announced it had a 90.4 percent on-time arrival rate for November. Operational reliability has been a focus for newish CEO Bob Fornaro. ... Iberia Airlines will resume flying from Madrid to San Juan, Puerto Rico in March, starting with three weekly flights and increasing to five for the summer peak season. ... Hawaiian Airlines is starting to schedule its new Airbus A321neos, a fuel-efficient aircraft that will allow it to enter new markets that would not have been profitable before. This week, it announced San Diego-Maui. ... Patrick Quayle, United's vice president for international planning, makes the Crain's Chicago Business 40-under-40 list. Quayle's on an ultra-long-haul kick, having announced Los Angeles-Singapore and Houston-Sydney in recent months.

Radio Gig: I'm the airline analyst for "The Opening Bell," a morning radio program on WGN in Chicago. Last week, we discussed airline food, American's pilot drama, and new improvements for United's Wi-Fi system.
Skift Airline Business Reporter Brian Sumers [] curates the Skift Airline Innovation Report. Skift emails the newsletter every Wednesday. Have a story idea? Or a juicy news tip? Want to share a memo? Send me an email or tweet me.
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