A new seasonal flight to the south during the winter is a first at Charleston International Airport.
Low-cost airline Allegiant will tap into the snowbird season by offering a route from mid-November to early spring to the southwest Florida coast. It normally has offered seasonal flights to points north during the summer.
The Las Vegas-based carrier will begin twice-weekly service to Punta Gorda, Fla., between Fort Myers and Sarasota, starting Nov. 14.
The flights are expected to operate generally on Thursday and Sunday through April 12, 2020. Some other days of the week are offered as alternatives, but flights are generally two per week during the period.
Introductory one-way fares as low as $49 are being offered. Baggage and other fees are extra. Flights must be purchased by Aug. 14 for travel by April 12.
“We’re excited to offer Charlestonians a new nonstop option for travel to Punta Gorda,” said Drew Wells, Allegiant vice president of planning and revenue. “We know local travelers will love our convenient, affordable service to get away to beautiful southwest Florida this winter, while Punta Gorda-area travelers can enjoy beautiful, historic Charleston.”
Allegiant most recently offered nonstop flights from Charleston to Cincinnati, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Columbus, Ohio. The seasonal routes to Indianapolis, Cleveland and Columbus have ended.
The new Florida destination has not been a priority for the Charleston market, but airport and tourism officials welcome the nonstop connection that will offer a winter getaway for Charleston residents and a cool-weather excursion to the Lowcountry for those from southwest Florida.
Charleston's nonstop air connection to Ohio increases by two new seasonal routes this week to two of the state's largest cities.
"They feel very good about it," said Charleston airport liaison Gary Edwards of Allegiant's decision to add Punta Gorda to its flight schedule. "They have experience in that airport. This is less of a tourism play and more about the growth of the local Charleston designated market area."
For those looking for a winter reprieve, Edwards said, "It will be a good impulse buy if you want to go warm up."
Airport leaders lauded the airline for continuing to offer "affordable and convenient travel options" to Lowcountry residents.
"Connecting our passengers to the Florida Gulf Coast and other south Florida destinations is a win-win for both Charleston International Airport and Allegiant," said airport CEO Paul Campbell. "The addition of Punta Gorda to our expanding network of nonstop markets will help to ensure another year of record passengers traveling to and from our region."
Everything seems to be expanding at Charleston International Airport, including executive salaries.
The region's chief tourism leader said the service also allows residents of southwest Florida nonstop access to explore Charleston.
"We strongly believe that expanded air service from new nonstop cities will allow our industry to grow responsibly, while offering local residents an obvious benefit," said Helen Hill, CEO of Explore Charleston and a member of Charleston County Aviation Authority, which oversees the airport.