BANGOR, Maine — The atmosphere was a festive one as officials of Bangor International Airport and Allegiant Air announced a new, nonstop route between Bangor and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Multicolored balloons and streamers, and two giant punch bowls full of orange juice were prominent in the airport’s second floor domestic terminal Thursday morning for a press conference announcing the airline’s expanded service.
“Allegiant could’ve added this service at a number of different cities they serve, but they chose Bangor because the community has embraced the service,” said Rebecca Hupp, BIA’s director. “Florida is our top destination, with Orlando and Tampa being number one and number two. Miami and Fort Lauderdale both show up in our top 20 consistently.”
The nonstop jet service begins Nov. 17 with an introductory one-way fare of $84.99 — good if purchased by Sept. 14 and covering travel between Nov. 17, 2011, and Feb. 14, 2012. Seats are limited and the fares are not available for all flights.
“Generally when we introduce a flight it’ll start off twice a week and then we’ll ramp it up accordingly,” said Kristine Shattuck-Cooper, Allegiant’s public relations manager.
Flights will start out Thursday and Sunday, with Bangor departures at 12:35 p.m. and Fort Lauderdale arrivals at 4:10 p.m., and Fort Lauderdale departures at 8:30 a.m. and Bangor arrivals at 11:50 a.m.
“Our focus is on air service development and this is one piece of that,” said Hupp. “This is one of several priorities we’re working on. We’re dedicated on providing more connectivity with hubs like Chicago, D.C. and Charlotte.”
Shattuck-Cooper said Allegiant’s business model is to link smaller communities to world-class leisure destinations such as Las Vegas, Orlando and Los Angeles. The Las Vegas-based airline company arrived in Bangor almost four years ago with service from Bangor to Sanford, Fla., near Orlando, and has expanded since.
“It’s definitely a growth market for us,” said Shattuck-Cooper. “It’s a small community, but also very unique with a lot of amenities and services you usually only find in larger cities. Plus people want to get the heck out of here with it being cold for seven or eight months and go from shoveling snow to shoveling sand.”
Hupp said it’s the latest economic shot in the arm for an airport that was reeling just four years ago.
“In recent history, our lowest point was probably four years ago when we lost American Eagle and Continental, but we’ve seen growth the last several years, particularly in the summer,” Hupp said. “Last summer, our planes were almost completely full and some people were actually turned away because there weren’t enough seats to accommodate passengers.
“This year we’ve seen an over 30 percent increase in capacity and last month we saw a 25 percent increase in the number of passengers using the Bangor airport in July, and in this economy — and this industry in general — that’s huge. It’s the best July we’ve had since 2005.”
Shattuck-Cooper said Bangor’s infrastructure growth in recent years — with Hollywood Slots Hotel and Raceway, the Bangor Waterfront Pavilion concert stage, and the ongoing new arena and events center construction — is helping turn Bangor into a summer destination.
“We have nine destination markets and 75 community markets,” she said. “Reverse traffic for us is something we’re working on and Bangor helps us a lot in that regard.”