Glacier Airport Offering Direct Flights to Vegas, Baby, Vegas

By Beacon Staff

Local fans of electronic Keno and Texas Hold ‘Em now have the opportunity to take their gaming up a notch at such legendary casinos as the Bellagio or the MGM Grand. Allegiant Air will be offering direct flights from Glacier International Airport to Las Vegas beginning in October.

“We are very pleased to bring a little bit of Las Vegas here this morning,” John Fenyes, director of sales for Allegiant Air said Wednesday, with a tall Vegas showgirl decked out in blue sequins and feathers at his side. “It makes it easy for this community to now fly to Las Vegas and connect to other markets.”

Introductory rates for one-way flights will be $89, running from Oct. 17 through Jan. 31. There will be two flights a week, departing Kalispell on Friday evenings at 8:15 p.m., and returning from Las Vegas on Mondays, departing at 4:15 p.m. and arriving back in the Flathead at 7:35 p.m. By combining the flights with some of Allegiant’s hotel packages, Montanans can travel to Vegas and spend four (often sleepless) nights there for as low as $250.

Travelers need to buy their tickets by Sept. 10 to get the low rates, but after the initial offering, ticket prices will still be as low as $109, Fenyes said.

Glacier airport director Cindi Martin said she has been courting Allegiant to offer service out of the Flathead for more than two years, and a deal was hammered out earlier this summer. She anticipates direct Vegas flights will encourage more travelers serious about recreation, adding to the tourists and business travelers comprising most of Glacier Airport’s current fliers.

“We actually see it as growing the market,” Martin said, “not so much stealing from the existing market.”

Jim Trout, chairman of the airport authority, said the new service adds another non-stop destination for travelers from the Flathead, and he believes Allegiant may be adding other non-stop destinations from Kalispell if business is good.

“We’ll prove ourselves,” Trout said. “I think we will, at some point in the near future, be adding a Phoenix (Ariz.) non-stop.”

The Flathead is the fifth Montana market Allegiant serves, having just announced service in Billings and Bozeman beginning in October. It is also the 41st city Allegiant now offers flights from to Vegas. Fenyes said Allegiant has managed to carve out a niche for itself by providing smaller cities with flights to leisure destinations – and has managed to grow its service while bigger airlines are cutting back.

“We don’t focus on the business traveler,” Fenyes said. “We know that there is a demand for leisure; even in today’s economy, people still take their vacations and travel.”

The airline is also counting on Canadians to comprise a good chunk of the passengers flying into and out of the Flathead to Vegas. Fenyes couldn’t say how much, but he noted that on the flights the airline recently began out of Bellingham, Wash., about 70 percent of the travelers are Canadians – often travelers from British Columbia trying to avoid certain taxes at the Vancouver airport.

Allegiant will be flying a 150-seat, MD-80 jet to Vegas, making it one of the largest planes departing from Glacier Airport.

Jennifer Lynn was the showgirl accompanying Fenyes for his announcement, and she said she plans to be on the inaugural flight out of the Flathead Oct. 17, though she’ll be wearing something different from the plume of feathers and sequins rising out of the top of her head nearly two feet tall.

“On the plane, I don’t actually wear the headpiece,” Lynn said, but noted that she wouldn’t be the only special guest on the first flight from the Flathead valley to Las Vegas.

“There might possibly be Elvis himself on the plane,” she added. “It’s a little incentive to get on that first flight.”

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