Allegiant to invest $50M by basing 2 Airbus planes at McGhee Tyson, will create 66 jobs

Permanently basing two Airbus jets at McGhee Tyson Airport is likely to mean more frequent discount flights to more destinations in Knoxville’s future, Allegiant Air announced.

Hillary Gray, director of corporate communications for Allegiant, joined Gov. Bill Haslam and local officials to announce the $50 million investment. That includes wages on up to 66 new jobs, local operating costs, and possible minor upgrades to the space Allegiant already rents at the airport, Gray said.

New destinations?

“It also adds opportunities to add flights and routes into the future,” she said. Gray wouldn’t disclose any possible new destinations, but said “rest assured that there’s going to be more to come.”

There is no schedule anticipated for announcing any such changes, she said. Currently Allegiant flies from Knoxville to Washington, D.C.; New York City; Las Vegas, Nevada; and five Florida destinations, at base prices from $34 to $88, according to Allegiant’s website.

Allegiant flies 27 routes total out of five Tennessee cities, she said. Twenty-two of those routes are not offered by other carriers, an Allegiant news release said.

Knoxville is Allegiant’s 15th base of operations in the country and its first in Tennessee, Gray said. The company’ other recently-established bases are Indianapolis, Indiana; and making Destin, Florida, a year-round base instead of seasonal, she said.

Allegiant is switching to all Airbus jets by the end of 2018, Gray said. The Knoxville base will start with two 166-seat planes, but more aircraft could be stationed here in the future, she said.

Official response

Haslam and other speakers sat in a semicircle on a small stage set up on McGhee Tyson terminal’s second floor, flanked by banners for Allegiant and the airport, with passengers streaming past on both sides.

“When we look to recruit companies or folks to move here, one of the key questions is always about air service,” Haslam said.

Eddie Mannis, board chairman of the Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority, said 2017 was a record year for McGhee Tyson Airport.

“We saw our passengers reach almost 2 million, making it the busiest year in our history,” he said; and so far this year passenger numbers are up again.

Allegiant will be hiring up to 66 people, probably a combination of locals and transfers, Gray said. Those will include pilots, flight attendants, maintenance, ground crew and other support jobs, she said.

Allegiant’s service at Knoxville began in 2006 with a single flight to St. Petersburg/Clearwater, Florida, Gray said. In the ensuing 12 years, 2.5 million people have flown Allegiant through McGhee Tyson Airport, she said.

While most major carriers cater to business travelers, Allegiant focuses on leisure: students, vacationers and family visitors, Gray said. The Knoxville area offers all those.

The Las Vegas-based company employs more than 4,000 nationwide, the news release said. Beginning in 1998, it now has more than 80 planes flying 300 routes.

American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines and United Airlines also offer flights from the airport.

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by Jim Gaines

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Published June 22, 2018