By Bob Shane
Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport (IWA), formerly Williams Gateway Airport, marked the start of a newly scheduled airline service on Oct. 25. Allegiant Air, a low-cost Las Vegas-based airline that operates 130-seat MD-80 series jet aircraft, selected the East Valley airport as its fourth operating base located in a leisure destination city. The other three base locations are McCarran International Airport (LAS) in Las Vegas, Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB) and St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport (PIE).
“We’re extremely pleased to add Arizona to our growing roster of world-class leisure destinations,” said Ponder Harrison, managing director of the Allegiant Travel Company, the parent company of Allegiant Air. “This is an exciting new market for our airline and our customers. We look forward to a successful relationship between the airport authority, area resorts and community leaders.”
The airline currently offers low-cost scheduled air service to more than 50 U.S. cities. A total of 42 markets are served from Las Vegas, 26 from Orlando, 14 from the Tampa Bay area and now 13 from Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.
The start of scheduled airline service on Oct. 25 got off to a good start. More than 400 passengers took advantage of Allegiant’s cheap fares and direct flights. Betty Criddle, a passenger arriving from Cedar Rapids, loved the $89 inaugural fare, as well as how quickly she was able to navigate through the terminal to her waiting car.
“These low fares will enable me to visit my daughter and grandkids more often,” she said.
Tyri Squyres, Allegiant’s director of corporate communications, stated that the number of passengers flying on inaugural flights exceeded the company’s initial forecast. Brian Sexton, public information officer for IWA, discussed how Allegiant is helping the airport meet increased demand for convenient travel options.
“This is a new beginning for Valley air travelers,” Sexton said. “There’s a demand for an alternative commercial airport in the Phoenix area and Gateway is fulfilling that role. Allegiant is expected to bring more than 125,000 visitors to the Valley over the next year; many of them will be first-time visitors.”
A new name
On Sept. 17, the Williams Gateway Airport Authority voted to change the airport name from Williams Gateway Airport to Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. The new name became effective Oct. 15.
“Changing the name is critical to ensure the airport reaches its highest potential in creating jobs and commercial services development,” said Lynn Kusy, executive director for the WGAA. “We’ll continue to seek high-profile alternatives to celebrate the proud military history created by those who served at the former Williams Air Force Base; it will start with the renaming of the passenger terminal in Lt. Williams’ honor.”
The new name will facilitate Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in its role as a reliever airport for Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. A survey conducted on the subject indicated that managers rated airport name, as an indicator of geographic market, the most important factor in a reliever airport’s success. Additionally, the name change was reportedly crucial to Allegiant’s marketing plan.
On July 2 of this year, Embraer, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of commercial and corporate jets, broke ground for a new 45,000-square-foot executive jet service center at IWA. The $11,000,000 facility, scheduled for completion in mid-2008, will be one of three locations in the U.S. providing complete maintenance service for the company’s Phenom 100, Phenom 300 and Legacy 600 executive jets.
“With this new investment, our goal is to develop a highly competitive infrastructure that will exceed the expectations of the business jet market by offering convenient support and efficient services,” said Edson Carlos Mallaco, Embraer’s senior vice president of aviation services.
The latest expansion in airport services offered by Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport reinforces why it’s a showcase for the nation as an example of the successful conversion of a former military installation to civilian use.