Budget flights with one-way fares as low as $83 arrived at Sarasota Bradenton International Airport on Wednesday with Allegiant Air's inaugural service from Indianapolis.
The flight landed a few minutes earlier than its scheduled 9 a.m. arrival and was greeted with a water cannon salute by the airport fire department.
A second arrival from Pittsburgh was set for Wednesday afternoon and another from Cincinnati is scheduled for Friday.
"Obviously, we're very excited. It was a very full flight. They only had one or two seats that were empty. Not just that, but going out they are telling us their flights are full as well. That's kind of unusual on an inaugural flight. It's usually people coming in and the first flight goes out kind of empty," said Rick Piccolo, president and CEO of Sarasota Bradenton International Airport.
"We think there is a lot of growth potential with Allegiant. If you look at their history, when they enter a city, they tend to grow rather fast. So we think this is a great opportunity for the community, and a great opportunity for growth for the airport. It is the first ultra low-cost carrier we have," Piccolo said.
Piccolo would not tip his hand about the possibility of landing other airline service at SRQ.
"We talk to airlines all the time, but certainly right now we are trying to talk to Allegiant about their expansion and opportunities," Piccolo said.
The principal airlines serving SRQ include Delta, United, American and JetBlue.
Zack Kramer, public relations specialist for Allegiant, noted the excitement of passengers arriving at SRQ as they made their way through a balloon archway of palm trees and were greeted with gifts and cookies.
"It's been amazing. We are thrilled to be here in Sarasota-Bradenton. We have got three new flights that we are launching. The people were so excited when they got off the plane to be here in Sarasota-Bradenton," Kramer said.
A decorated cake outside Gate B9 contained the banner "Allegiant Inaugural Flight" and contained images of Cortez Fishing Village, Mixon Fruit Farm, Bradenton Riverwalk and the South Florida Museum, all in Manatee County, and the Ringling Bridge, Siesta Beach and Mote Marine in Sarasota County.
Tim Ingersoll, one of the arriving passengers from Indianapolis, said he was satisfied with his flight.
"Amazing good deals. I am ecstatic at them offering these flights," Ingersoll said.
Elliott Falcione, executive director of Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, was among those on hand to watch the arrival of the first Allegiant flight.
"It takes the airport to a new level. It's really going to increase the deplanement year round. What's exciting is that Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati are already top feeder markets for us. So instead of them coming into Tampa, hopefully we'll see the shift of passengers coming into Sarasota Bradenton International Airport," Falcione said.
"The airport does a first-class job with these inaugural flights. They are a great partner to us. So important to this region. Rick and his team are first-class. We are proud to be a partner and we see this airport growing for many years to come," Falcione said.
In a press release, Allegiant said that its introductory prices include taxes and fees. Fares are one way and not available on all flights.
Flights between Indianapolis and Sarasota-Bradenton must be purchased by April 13 for travel between April 14 and May 30. Flights between Pittsburgh and SRQ must be purchased by April 13 for travel between April 14 and May 31. Flights between Cincinnati and SRQ must be purchased by April 15 for travel between April 23 and May 21.
For more details, optional services and baggage fees, visit Allegiant.com. Additional restrictions may apply.
“We’re excited to offer three new nonstop options to Sarasota-Bradenton,” said Lukas Johnson, Allegiant's senior vice president of commercial. “We’re excited to offer travelers from Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh a convenient, affordable way to the beautiful beaches of the Gulf Coast, while contributing to the local economy.”