Allegiant Air will soon be pulling out of the Mayo Clinic-operated Rochester airport, making its final flights to and from the Phoenix-Mesa area next month. The discount airline is also suspending service between Fargo and St. Petersburg, Fla., a company official said.
Allegiant’s final flights in and out of Rochester on May 14 will end its presence at that airport after roughly 18 months.
“It just comes down to we only have so many airplanes and crews to fly the airplanes,” Jessica Wheeler, a spokeswoman for the Las Vegas-based airline, said in explaining the changes in Rochester and Fargo. “We always need to evaluate the best ways to use those resources.”
Left serving Rochester are American Airlines to and from Chicago’s Midway Airport and Delta flying to and from the Twin Cities.
The Mayo Clinic has a significant presence in both Rochester, the health provider’s originating home, and in the Phoenix area. Losing this air service, which ran one flight each way on Thursdays and Sundays, is not lost on Mayo. The clinic owns the Rochester Airport Co., which runs the airport under an agreement with the city.
“These flights were running at near capacity,” said Mayo spokesman Bryan L. Anderson, “so we know there is significant demand to fly in and out of Rochester.”
Anderson added that “more travel options to and from Rochester are important to community members and visitors. [Its operators] will continue to work to increase business and leisure travel options.”
After five consecutive years of Rochester passenger declines amounting to a nearly 33 percent drop-off between 2007 to 2012, the number of total passengers inched up 4 percent last year.
While 2,400 southern Minnesotans a day take a flight, a recent study revealed that only 12 percent use Rochester’s airport instead of driving more than an hour up to the Twin Cities.
Suspending Fargo-St. Pete
Allegiant’s service between Fargo and St. Petersburg will run through May 18 and then resume sometime in early December. “We don’t have an exact date. It will be in time for the holiday travel season,” Wheeler said.
Travelers who already have tickets for any of the canceled flights should be hearing from Allegiant “to offer them a full refund,” Wheeler said.
Allegiant still serves Fargo with flights to and from Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Orlando and Phoenix-Mesa.
Wheeler said the airline has no other changes planned for other service in or near Minnesota. Those markets include Sioux Falls, Grand Forks, Duluth and St. Cloud.
“We’ve been happy with the St. Cloud service,” Wheeler said. Allegiant established itself there in December 2012 with flights to and from Phoenix-Mesa and in and out of Orlando on a seasonal basis.