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$40 fares fill new AVL-to-Punta Gorda flights

An Allegiant airline MD88 takes off on first flight from Asheville to Punta Gorda, Fla. An Allegiant airline MD88 takes off on first flight from Asheville to Punta Gorda, Fla.

The new Allegiant airline route from Asheville to Punta Gorda was made to order for Donna Stout, who owns the White Squirrel gift shop in Brevard and also has a home in the southwest Florida city.

 

"It is wonderful being so close," Stout said as she waited to board the first flight. "I love the Asheville airport anyway. My home in Florida is 10 minutes from the airport. I'm just going down to take my grandchildren out to dinner."
With fares as low as $53 one-way, a quick down-and-back flight is possible and affordable, and it's one reason why Allegiant's MD-88s have been carrying passenger loads at 90-95 percent capacity.
Asheville Regional Airport officials and board members celebrated the inaugural Punta Gorda flight last week with a ribbon cutting at the boarding gate. With the southwest Florida destination, Allegiant added a fourth city to its lineup of Florida destinations. It also flies to the Orlando-Sanford airport, Fort Lauderdale and Clearwater-St. Petersburg.
"We know how much our community appreciates low-cost flights," said Lew Bleiweis, the airport's executive director.
AirlineboardingPassengers board Allegiant flight to Punta Gorda from an Asheville gate."It's all about economic development," airport board member K. Ray Bailey added. "I'm on the Economic Development Coalition and this is the kind of thing we continue to look for to help us progress economically. You have to give credit to the airport staff for working with these folks to make these flights happen."
Allegiant's move into the market with discount fares is one reason the Asheville airport reported an increase in passenger traffic for the fifth month in a row. The number of travelers departing from Asheville in September increased by 12 percent over September 2013, the fourth consecutive month of double-digit increases.
"The average flight from AVL is about 80 percent full, and we have some that are 85-95 percent full," Bleiweis in a news release. "The airlines have 'right-sized' their offerings to fit the demands of air travelers in this market and the flight options are working for many air travelers in the region."
Airlines have added to the total number of seats in the market compared to the same period last year, and filled jets as they added new routes.LeeAnnPagliaroLee Ann Pagliaro
Allegiant, which specializes in packaging car rentals and hotel stays with low-cost fares to vacation destinations, currently offers the round trip Asheville-Punta Gorda flights on Wednesdays and Saturdays but that changes in January. For flight days, times and fares go to Allegiant.com.
The discount fares lured flier Lee Ann Pagliaro of Murphy from the Knoxville airport to Asheville. She flies once a month to Cape Coral. She bought a $40 one-way ticket to the Florida Gulf Coast.
"I was so pleased when this came up," she said. "It's no frills but I enjoy the flight, I enjoy the personnel, it's an easy website to use and the economy — that's No. 1."

AT A GLANCE

Allegiant Air launched its Asheville-to-Punta Gorda route on Oct. 30
Fares start at $40
Currently flights are Wednesdays and Fridays
Allegiant also flies to Orlando-Sanford, Fort Lauderdale and Clearwater-St. Petersburg