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Announcement expected on airline to serve Hagerstown

September 17, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Hagerstown Regional Airport officials are expected to announce Wednesday that Allegiant Air, a Las Vegas-based airline that flies to U.S. vacation destinations, has agreed to provide commercial air service to Hagerstown.

Allegiant Air will fly between Hagerstown and Orlando, according to a government official with knowledge of the agreement.

Tyri Squyres, spokeswoman for Allegiant Air, said she would neither confirm nor deny the agreement but said Allegiant Air "would be very interested" in flying to Hagerstown.

"We have been talking with the airport for some time," Squyres said.

The flights will run two or three times per week, the official familiar with the agreement said.

Squyres said the company usually starts with two flights per week to new cities.

Allegiant Air currently flies nonstop flights between dozens of small cities and leisure destinations such as Orlando, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Fort Lauderdale and Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla.

The airline uses 150-seat and 130-seat jets, which are significantly larger than the US Airways Express planes that most recently flew between Hagerstown and Pittsburgh.

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To accommodate the larger jets, improvements will have to be made to Hagerstown Regional Airport's baggage station and other areas, the official said.

It is unclear when Allegiant Air would begin service to Hagerstown.

The agreement with Allegiant Air will end a year-long absence of commercial service at the airport that began when Air Midwest stopped its US Airways Express flights between Hagerstown and Pittsburgh on Sept. 30, 2007.

Air Midwest received a federal subsidy to fly to Hagerstown and stopped flying here when that subsidy expired.

The subsidy, called Essential Air Service, was extended for one year but that extension is scheduled to expire at the end of this month.

It appears that Allegiant Air has not applied for the subsidy to fly to Hagerstown.

A U.S. Department of Transportation spokesperson said last week that no EAS contracts had been signed by airlines to fly to Hagerstown but would not comment on agreements with specific airlines.

The airport completed a $61.8 million runway extension in late 2007.

At 7,000 feet, the runway now is the second longest in the state. The longest is at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

After Air Midwest stopped its service to Hagerstown, airport officials said they were optimistic that the longer runway would attract a commercial carrier with larger regional jets.

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