PEORIA — A once-popular air route between Peoria and the American West is being reestablished.
In May, Allegiant Air plans to begin to offer nonstop service between the Peoria and Denver international airports, the Las Vegas-based carrier announced early Tuesday.
Allegiant also is to introduce a nonstop route between Peoria and Sarasota, Florida.
Both seasonal routes are to begin in late May and feature one flight in each direction twice a week. Allegiant is offering introductory one-way fares from $39 to Denver and $59 to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.
Gene Olson, the Peoria airport director, said the Allegiant expansion indicates the company's level of confidence in the Peoria market despite traffic loads being about half of usual. COVID-19 is at fault.
"We've seen Allegiant maintain a lot of flights in and out of Peoria," Olson said during a news conference Tuesday. "Because people have been patronizing those flights, I'm sure that had an impact.
"I don't think Allegiant ever does anything without doing their homework. (This) says this is a viable airport that's going to grow."
Seasoned travelers might remember Peoria-Denver air service being available in the 1990s on United Airlines. Flights usually would stop in Moline, at least in one direction, with no change of plane.
"It's a city to the west that has a lot of business travel and a lot of leisure travel," Olson said about Denver. "We're hoping that one does well enough to get extended to year-round."
The current Allegiant schedule has the Denver and Sarasota flights listed through August, according to Olson. He suggested Peoria airport officials found out on short notice about the new flights.
Service between Peoria and Denver is to take place on Fridays and Mondays, beginning May 28.
According to the Allegiant website, a flight is to depart Peoria at 4:03 p.m. May 28 and arrive in Denver at 5:14 p.m. Mountain time. The return flight is to leave Denver at 5:59 p.m. Mountain time and land in Peoria at 8:59 p.m.
The Peoria-Sarasota route is to begin May 27 and operate on Thursdays and Sundays.
On the first day of service, an Allegiant flight is to depart Sarasota at 2:05 p.m. Eastern time and arrive in Peoria at 3:36 p.m. At 4:21 p.m., the flight is to leave Peoria; landing time in Sarasota is scheduled for 7:47 p.m. Eastern.
Allegiant already offers nonstop flights from Peoria to St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport, about 45 miles north of Sarasota-Bradenton.
"When you look on the map, it's not far from St. Pete, but Tampa Bay is right in the middle there," Olson said. "People just don't like to drive around the bay."
Allegiant also flies between Peoria and Punta Gorda, which is between Sarasota and Fort Myers along Florida's gulf coast.
The seasonal service Allegiant began last year between Peoria and Nashville, Tennessee, also is poised to return. Nonstop flights on that route are to begin again May 28, with one round trip on Fridays and Mondays, per the Allegiant website.
Peoria-Nashville proved so popular Allegiant extended its duration through early January, about a month after the route's expected ending date.
The new flights bring to 12 the number of destinations accessible by air from Peoria. Of those, nine are via Allegiant.
Last month, Delta Air Lines announced it was ending Peoria service to Atlanta permanently. A suspension had been announced last May.
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