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Ogden is joining a growing number of Utah cities beyond Salt Lake City that have become big enough to attract commercial jet service to their airports.
Starting Sept. 20, Allegiant Air will launch twice-weekly nonstop service between Ogden Airport and the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in Mesa, Ariz., using 166-passenger McDonnell Douglas MD-80 jets, airport and company representatives said Wednesday.
"Allegiant is very excited to bring our brand into this area. We think this is an under-served market that's got tons of potential to grow," said Eric Fletcher, Allegiant's manager of airports.
Ogden is the latest Utah city to reduce its dependence on Salt Lake City International Airport for air service. In January 2011, SkyWest Airlines, flying as Delta Connection, began flying between St. George and Utah's capital. It also operates a United Express flight to Los Angeles International Airport with a turboprop airplane.
Frontier Airlines began flying between Provo's airport and Denver International Airport in June 2011. The low-cost carrier flies the route with Embraer 190 midrange jets that seat 99 passengers.
"It does reflect the actual growth in our population extending from Salt Lake City more to the south and also to the north," said Patrick Morley, director of Utah Division of Aeronautics.
"You can rest assured that the airlines won't stick their necks out unless they think they have a reasonable chance of making a profit at it. I think they've done their homework and are willing to give it a shot," Morley said.
Allegiant proposed the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway route to Ogden officials in January. The airline will fly the route on Thursdays and Sundays or on Fridays and Mondays, as demand warrants, Fletcher said.
One-way $69.99 introductory fares are available until July 4 at http://www.allegiantair.com, or by calling 1-702-505-8888.
Ogden is fast becoming a year-round tourist destination, and city officials are crossing their fingers that Allegiant's service from the Phoenix area will spark more visits to the area.
"Ogden has been recognized by the national media over the last few years as a world-class destination with unparalleled access to outdoor and high-adventure recreation. This new partnership greatly enhances that access," Mayor Mike Caldwell said during a press conference in front of the airport terminal.
"I can't think of anywhere else, anywhere in the United States where you can land and be in your waders throwing a dry fly, buckling ski boots or being on a hiking or biking trail within 25 minutes of touching down in a metropolitan area like this. It truly creates a unique opportunity to expand and grow our tourism product," Caldwell, a triathlete, said.
Fletcher said Allegiant expects local demand will fill 90 percent of the MD-80's seats. If that occurs, the airline probably will offer more destinations, he said.
"This is just the beginning. We hope to be able to grow and continue to expand in Ogden."
Caldwell said Ogden and Allegiant officials have discussed the possibility of routes to Las Vegas; Oakland, Calif.; Anaheim, Calif.; and Bellingham, Wash.
"They wouldn't have come here if there hadn't been enough demand," the mayor said, adding that he's seen studies that show the Ogden area could support as many as 20 flights a week from the airport.
Allegiant is owned by Allegiant Travel, based in Enterprise, Nev. The company focuses on linking small cities with airports that have limited or no service to leisure destinations. It flies nonstop to 32 destinations from Phoenix-Mesa Gateway.