Allegiant Airlines announced five new routes to Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport beginning May 14 and with one-way fares starting at $33.
FORT WALTON BEACH - The momentum that has pushed Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport into the conversation as one of the fastest-growing airports in the United States shows no signs of slowing down.
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Tuesday was just the latest evidence as Allegiant Airlines announced five new routes to Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport (VPS) starting May 14 — Chicago (Midway), New York (Stewart), Boston (Logan), Houston (Hobby) and Dayton, Ohio — with introductory fares starting as low as $33 for one-way tickets.
Allegiant's expansion in Okaloosa County has gone hand-in-hand with the airport's growth. Since 2016, Destin-Fort Walton Beach has gone from five destinations to 41 destinations.
Since 2016, Allegiant has gone from 70,915 passengers through Destin-Fort Walton Beach to 536,924 in 2019, trailing only American Airlines, with 539,179, and passing Delta Airlines at 508,065.
In total, passengers at VPS have increased from 915,560 in 2016 to approximately 1.7 million in 2019.
"The impact in our area, due to our growth, has just been tremendous," said Airport Direct Tracy Stage. "To think about going from five cities to 41 cities for destinations is one thing, but also consider 400 jobs have been added just since 2018. That's where you see the real impact this is having in the community.
"And when you see that our economic impact doubled to $1.7 billion in 2018, you really begin to understand what Allegiant has done for our region. It's been a tremendous partnership."
Stage didn't have to go far to demonstrate Allegiant's growing presence in Destin-Fort Walton Beach, as construction crews worked on building a new terminal scheduled to open in March 2021 — all paid for by Allegiant at a cost of between $4 million-$8 million.
"Allegiant has been very understanding of the challenges we're under, concerning our growth," Stage said. "Their commitment to Okaloosa County, to fully fund a brand new concourse facility and be reimbursed based on performance ... that's unheard of in the airline industry. It shows the tremendous commitment they have to Okaloosa County and, specifically, Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport."
Allegiant will be reimbursed by the county via a $9 charge per passenger, which is anticipated to be paid off by 2026. Since 2016, average, one-way airport fares at VPS have decreased from $260 to $182, according to Stage. It’s the lowest average fare of any airport between Mobile and Jacksonville.
"Over the last three or four years, Tracy and his team have done a wonderful job of embracing the growth that's coming, as well as recognizing ... what type of people, venues and markets would want to come here," said Okaloosa County Commissioner Graham Fountain. "They know that people come here for our beaches, diving and fishing, but also understand the military complex we have in place, and the support that's needed there.
"This doesn't all happen by accident. You have to work with all the players to see what kind of growth is appropriate. Allegiant has come in here, and I would have to say they've been pretty miraculous as a partner."
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