Travelers in the Lehigh Valley now have a new, easier way to get to Denver, Colorado.
Allegiant has announced it will begin service from Lehigh Valley International Airport to Denver beginning in June.
“We believe this will be a popular new route, offering visitors from the East Coast a chance to visit Colorado for summer vacations via Allegiant’s brand of affordable, nonstop service,” said Drew Wells, Allegiant senior vice president and chief revenue officer. “Denver is a gateway for all that Colorado has to offer – from the scenic landscapes of the Rocky Mountains to the arts, culture and music on display in Denver.”
The flights will begin June 15.
“Known for its proximity to the Rocky Mountains, Denver is an exciting vacation destination that will have plenty of interest from air travelers across the Lehigh Valley. Whether its skiing, hiking, Larimer Square, or the arts/culture district, there’s plenty of attractions and family activities in the Mile High City,” said Thomas R. Stoudt, executive director of the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority.
“When Allegiant chose ABE as their 18th crew base, we spoke about the potential for more flight options and connectivity. Being able to offer this air service further west is really exciting for us. Allegiant’s commitment to the region continues to provide air travelers affordable options, and they remain a dependable partner that focuses on supporting impactful community initiatives.”
Lehigh Valley International Airport is inching back to normal passenger traffic levels as people begin to fly again following the COVID-19 shutdown.
The Lehigh Northampton Airport Authority said 88,528 passengers used the airport in June, which is close to the 89,609 passengers that used the airport in June 2019, before the pandemic.
Comparatively, only 78,851 passengers used the airport during the summer of 2020, June through August, and the number represents a 238.9% increase over June of last year.
“Energy within the terminal complex is palpable as you can sense the excitement from passengers to again be taking off for their family vacation or leisure getaway,” said Thomas R. Stoudt, executive director of the LNAA. “The airport industry didn’t anticipate such a quick surge, but it’s a fantastic feeling to see the influx of travelers.”
Individually, Delta reported a massive passenger increase of 2,151%, United jumped 298%, Allegiant moved up 183% and American finished 118% ahead of last June.
Air cargo was also up over last year with 20,097,501 pounds processed through LVIA last month. That’s an increase of 32.4% from June 2020.
Once again passenger traffic at Lehigh Valley International Airport is down over last year.
The Lehigh Northampton Airport Authority is reporting a 61.6 % drop in traffic from Jan. 2020, which was right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
The airport had 23,545 passengers use the airport in January 2021 compared to 61,309 in January 2022.
But with the pandemic nearly a year old and showing signs of easing in the coming months, the airport authority is looking at the downward trend to begin to turn around.
“We remain optimistic that a turnaround is on the horizon as 2021 progresses. Vaccinations and the enhanced safety protocols throughout the aviation system have built a foundation of trust with travelers. These two elements are instrumental in our return to normalcy for the industry,” said Thomas R. Stoudt, executive director of the LNAA. “Airline capacity levels continue to increase at ABE, as popular nonstop routes are returning to multiple flights per day. For example, American has resumed service to Chicago-O’Hare, Delta will bring back its second daily flight to Atlanta, and United is scheduled to return service to Chicago in March. All of these decisions provide options for Lehigh Valley travelers.”
All of the airlines serving the airport saw a decline over the previous January. Delta reported a passenger traffic decrease of 66.5%, United dropped 66.3%, Allegiant declined by 59.4%, and American was down 58%.
As has been the trend since the pandemic drove a stronger demand for ecommerce, air cargo continued a dramatic increase at LVIA. A total 17,760,500 pounds of air cargo was processed through Lehigh Valley International Airport in January, a positive jump of 9.64% from Jan. 2020.
With the COVID-19 pandemic keeping the world shut down for most of 2020, travel was at a minimum. The story was no different in the Lehigh Valley where the Lehigh Valley International Airport saw the biggest passenger traffic drop in its history.
At the same time, with people stuck at home and ordering goods online, e-commerce drove cargo volume at the airport to a record high.
According to Tom Stoudt, executive director of the Lehigh Northampton Airport Authority, 390,764 passengers traveled through the airport in 2020. That’s a more than 57% decline from 2019.
On the air cargo side, Stoudt said the airport processed more than 210 million pounds of cargo, the highest volume the airport has ever handled and nearly 15% higher than in 2019.
Even the holidays were slow for air travel.
Passenger traffic during Thanksgiving week declined approximately 53% and Christmas followed with only 27,631 passengers traveling through the airport in December, a 61.7% decrease from December of last year.
Despite the pandemic and the resulting reduction in service, the airport did have some good news on the travel end including the arrival of a two-aircraft Allegiant Crew Base.
That brought more than 60 new jobs to the region as well as new air service to Sarasota and Chicago-Midway.
Also, United Airlines expanded services with daily non-stop service to Washington-Dulles International Airport.
“Adding three new routes during a time of great uncertainty surrounding commercial air service reflects the strong commitment by our airline partners to ensure options for the Lehigh Valley and surrounding communities,” said Stoudt.
Overall, however, each of the airlines at LVIA did see a decline in December. United reported a total passenger decrease of 67.4%, Delta dropped 65.6%, American declined 63.6%, and Allegiant was down 56.1%.
With many COVID-19 restrictions lifted, residents of the Greater Lehigh Valley are travelling again. The Lehigh Northampton Airport Authority reported that while passenger traffic remains drastically down from last year, it took a major jump in June over May’s numbers.
Last month, 26,123 passengers traveled through LVIA, a 70.8% decrease in traffic from June of 2019, but double the 13,017 passengers.
“Certainly this is positive news as people emerged from stay-at-home orders and decided to keep original summer travel plans,” said Thomas R. Stoudt, executive director, LNAA.
Of the airlines that serve LVIA, Delta reported a passenger traffic decrease of 96% over June of last year, United dropped 80.4%, American 65.7%, and Allegiant declined by 57.2%.
“Most passenger traffic was focused on leisure destinations with Allegiant experiencing more activity, while the legacy carriers indicated more schedule changes are expected,” explained Stoudt.
Air cargo remained strong at the airport with 15.2 million pounds of air cargo processed in June – a jump of 5.4% from June 2019. With much of the cargo being pandemic-related, according to Stoudt, the numbers are dropping slightly.
June’s cargo numbers were lower than May when 21.4 million pounds of air cargo were processed at LVIA. That was an increase of 52.6% over May 2019.
While traffic remains down drastically from this time last year, Lehigh Valley International Airport did see a slight increase in traffic in May over April. Still, airlines are making changes as a result of the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on travel.
Delta suspended service to Atlanta, and American suspended flights to Philadelphia. Beginning on July 6, United will make a hub change by suspending service to Chicago, however it will restart its bus service to Newark.
The service suspensions, due to fewer travelers, are expected to be a temporary. However, United’s bus service to Newark is expected to be a permanent change.
There will still be flights available to Chicago via American and Allegiant, which offer the service.
All of the airlines have seen a large drop in passengers even as the region begins reopening from the COVID-19 shutdown. Delta reported a passenger traffic decrease of 97.5% in May, United dropped 94.7%, American 77.5%, and Allegiant 74.4%.
The Airport Authority reported an 82.8 percent decrease over last May — 13,017 compared to 76,000 in 2019.
“Reduction in air service certainly impacted passenger numbers as all airlines operating at ABE adjusted their schedules based on demand,” said Tom Stoudt, executive director of the airport authority.
May passenger traffic increased over April, when only 2,749 passengers flew out of LVIA.
While passenger traffic has been off at the airport, cargo traffic has been up dramatically.The airport authority said 21.4 million pounds of air cargo were processed at LVIA in May, an increase of 52.6% over May 2019.
Lehigh Valley International Airport was on a path to potentially see more than a million passengers this year.
Then, COVID-19 arrived.
The rapidly changing and spreading virus upended nearly 30 consecutive months of positive passenger traffic and put a financial strain on the airport as it continues operating and providing services.
“There is going to be a significant financial impact to ourselves, all airports across the country, all carriers,” said Thomas Stoudt, executive director of the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority. “Six months ago, we had pilot shortages, now passenger shortages.”
He declined to provide any financial indication of how much of an impact the virus has had so far on the airport’s operations.
The only pay reductions the airport is putting in place right now are from directors and senior managers. A dozen employees volunteered to take a 10% pay cut, but no layoffs are planned, he said.
The airport’s cargo operations remain active.
“We are still getting air cargo coming and going,” Stoudt said. “I’m sure there’s significant demand for packages.”
For airline carriers, the demand has just evaporated, Stoudt said.
One of LIVA’s four carriers, Allegiant Air, has cut about 15% of its capacity for April and May at the airports it serves, but more reductions will come and the cancellations are occurring across its network, said Sonya Pagdett, spokesperson for Allegiant Air, in a statement.
It was only a month ago that the Airport celebrated the arrival of Allegiant Air’s $50 million aircraft base, which brought new routes for air travelers and more than 60 employees.
Allegiant’s investment came at a time of continued strong growth in economic activity at the Hanover Township, Lehigh County-based airport, which has seen month after month of increased passenger traffic and officials sharing hopes of getting more than a million passengers traveling through the airport this year.
Now, Allegiant’s planning team is consolidating demand by cutting flights where it has other capacity for passengers to be re-accommodated easily, Pagdett said. As an example, that could apply to routes Allegiant offers multiple times per day or week. However, that will not always be possible moving forward, she said.
If Allegiant cancels flights, she said the carrier would notify customers directly and provide options.
On March 23, LVIA had 100 passengers going through the checkpoint. Typically, the airport gets 1,500 to 1,600 passengers per day, Stoudt said.
Before March, the airport had 29 consecutive months of passenger growth, said Colin Riccobon, spokesperson for the LNAA.
“It may be temporary,” Riccobon said. “It’s still going to be a road to recovery and it’s going to take some time and patience.”
Flights are still running with many vacant seats on board, but all of the airport’s food and concession services are very limited, he said. Furthermore, Trans-Bridge stopped its bus operations, which means service to the airport stopped as well.
About four years ago, the airport authority was struggling to stay afloat financially and has since rebounded through a number of initiatives. Those gains have left the airport authority in a better position to weather this crisis, Stoudt said.
Although the airport now has about 100 passengers coming a day, it has increased its cleaning and sanitizing practices and these costs have risen in some cases, Stoudt said.
“We are doing our part to make sure we are protecting people,” Stoudt said.
It’s 15 percent higher than 2018 and it’s the highest number of passengers since 2004 when the airport saw 1.25 million passengers through its gates.
Traffic at the airport began dropping in the mid-2000s when major airlines restructured their flight patterns that left many airports such as LVIA, out of the loop.
Thomas R. Stoudt, executive director of the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority, said he doesn’t believe the demand ever went away for flights out of the airport, just the availability of flights to the places the public wanted to go.
“One of the reasons [for the increase in traffic] is the airlines are adding that capacity to the airport. The demand, I think, has always been there, but now there’s flights.” he said.
Stoudt noted that last year American Airlines added flights to Chicago and Allegiant Airlines added three new destinations: Nashville, Savannah/Hilton Head and Sarasota, which significantly added to the passenger increase.
Besides the new flights, highlights during the year included the addition of four air service additions. In addition Allegiant chose LVIA as it 18th aircraft base and plans were introduced for a $22 million TSA checkpoint expansion and terminal connector.
911,970 is also a number that’s giving those who run the airport hope that passenger traffic could exceed 1 million again for 2020.
“Can we get there in 2020?” Stoudt asked. “It’s a possibility, but there are plenty of factors beyond our control. We just want to express our thanks and appreciation to every passenger, stakeholders, and staff for an amazing year.”
The airport authority is planning for future growth.
“We just have to make sure we have the facilities to meet the demand,” Stoudt said.
Late last year, the authority introduced a master plan update to meet the expected demand and improve the customer experience at the airport to help give it a competitive edge. The plan is a multi-year and multi-phase project.
Phase one is the Main Terminal TSA Checkpoint, Connector, and Vertical Circulation upgrades which has an expected project duration of approximately three years with a total cost of approximately $22 million.
Stoudt said the authority also has a wish list of flight destinations it would like to add in the future to further the airport’s growth. One destination mentioned by the authority before is Puerto Rico.
“San Juan is certainly still on the radar. For us, it’s finding the right airline partner. When I look at this region I certainly see a demand for the service,” Stoudt said.
Other destinations on the wish list are the Washington, D.C. area, Boston and an airport farther west, perhaps in Texas.
“We just need to find the right airline partners that can offer an attractive fare structure,” he said.
Today, the Las Vegas-based company said it will offer service to Chicago Midway International Airport from LVIA starting May 14.
LVIA, based in Hanover Township, Lehigh County, already announced three new destinations last year and officials see this newest offering as an effective way to increase travel options.
“This announcement is a clear demonstration that Allegiant’s decision to bring their 18th aircraft crew base to the Lehigh Valley in February 2020 will bolster air travel options for everyone in the region,” said Thomas Stoudt, executive director of the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority, in a statement.
He described Midway as a popular landing spot for business or leisure travelers and one which also can be an additional connection point to anywhere in the world.
“We are counting down the days to welcome home these critical Allegiant staff members into your neighborhood airport,” Stoudt said. “Passenger demand has grown consistently year after year. The arrival of locally-based crews brings an exciting element to this partnership’s continued success.”
From LVIA, Allegiant already offers non-stop flights to Clearwater/St. Petersburg, Fort Lauderdale, Myrtle Beach, Nashville, Punta Gorda, Orlando/Sanford, Sarasota/Bradenton and Savannah/Hilton Head.
In August Allegiant announced a $50 million investment to establish its new base of operations, which will house two Airbus aircraft and operational/airline services, with base operations set to begin on Feb. 12.
Colin Riccobon, spokesperson for LNAA, said LVIA already offers service to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago but this Midway route will be a new avenue of service for the company.
In a news release about its 44 new routes, which include the LVIA Midway route, Allegiant said it is the largest expansion in Allegiant’s history. Most of Allegiant’s 44 new routes are non-competitive, with no other airline providing service between those airports, the company said.
Lehigh Valley International Airport said it’s had consistent growth for 25 straight months now. It is reporting 77,794 passengers traveled through the airport in October, that’s an 11.56 percent increase over October of last year.
“ABE has already served over 760,000 passengers which equates to 16 percent growth year to date. We anticipate another busy holiday travel season and our staff is excited to ensure a comfortable environment for travelers using their neighborhood airport which includes the return of the holiday concert series featuring local schools and the festival of trees,” said Thomas R. Stoudt, executive director, Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority.
Of the airlines at the airport in Hanover Township, Lehigh County, American reported a passenger traffic increase of 28.7 percent, while Allegiant jumped 15.1 percent, and United was up 4.3 percent. Delta posted a decline in traffic of 2.5 percent.
Stoudt said the growth in passenger traffic is expected to continue. He pointed to the addition of new flights to Sarasota/Bradenton, Florida early next year, Allegiant moving its crew base operation to the Airport in February and a $22 million TSA Checkpoint and Vertical Circulation improvement project being planned as potential contributors to future growth.
Allegiant said it would offer service from Lehigh Valley International Airport in Hanover Township, Lehigh County, to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport beginning Feb. 13, 2020. In addition, the company is offering one-way fares on the new route for $65.
The new seasonal flights will operate twice weekly. With the addition of this new route, Allegiant will now serve eight cities from LVIA.
Sarasota marks the airport’s 14th non-stop destination.
It’s also the fourth air service announcement the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority made this year, said Colin Riccobon, spokesperson for LNAA.
As the third newest non-stop destination, the Sarasota-Bradenton route could further boost passenger traffic at the airport, according to Riccobon.
“Any leisure destination is always a popular one,” Riccobon said. “For Allegiant, it’s a growing destination for them where they’ve seen some requests to add this service.”
LVIA now offers five Florida destinations with the addition of this new route.
With Allegiant set to establish an aircraft base at LVIA that would open in February 2020, that too opens possibilities for additional routes, he added.
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