New Allegiant flights to Nashville, Pittsburgh, Concord celebrated at Melbourne airport

New Melbourne routes operate two days a week

Melbourne Mayor Paul Alfrey speaks during Thursday's Allegiant welcoming ceremony at Melbourne Orlando International Airport. (Tim Short, Florida Today)

MELBOURNE, Fla. – Just before 11 a.m. Thursday, Allegiant Flight 2430 from the Charlotte, North Carolina, metropolitan area touched down in Melbourne — launching a new route for the Space Coast’s first low-cost airline since Spirit canceled operations after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to News 6 partner Florida Today.

“I have had the pleasure of serving on the Melbourne Airport Authority for 17 years. And this is a day that has always lived as a dream,” said Jack Ryals, board chairman.

[TRENDING: Orlando leaders see promise in new ideas for Fashion Square Mall | Fill up on holiday cheer at 10 Central Florida Christmas light displays | Become a News 6 Insider]

“Today, it’s a reality,” he said.

Ryals spoke at a podium during an Allegiant welcoming ceremony near the Gate 4 ticket counter at Melbourne Orlando International Airport, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.

Outside on the apron, firetrucks greeted the first arriving plane from North Carolina with a celebratory water salute as it taxied to the terminal.

Allegiant started service at MLB on Nov. 11 with a nonstop route to Pittsburgh International Airport. Thursday marked the debut of nonstop flights to Nashville International Airport in Tennessee and Concord-Padgett Regional Airport, just outside Charlotte.

These new Melbourne routes operate two days a week. Allegiant is offering introductory one-way fares as low as $33 through Saturday.

Allegiant’s Melbourne debut expands its Florida footprint. The airline flies to and from Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers-Punta Gorda, Jacksonville, Key West, Sanford, Sarasota-Bradenton, St. Petersburg-Clearwater and West Palm Beach.

“Allegiant travelers bound for Florida now have the option to land right here in Melbourne, with immediate access to our beautiful beaches, our adventurous ecotourism, our unique shopping areas like downtown Melbourne and our Eau Gallie Arts District, our fun attractions. And there’s so much more,” said Melbourne Mayor Paul Alfrey, who serves on the Melbourne Airport Authority.

Based in Las Vegas, Allegiant flew 1.16 million passengers in October across its nationwide network. That’s a 5.1% increase, compared with October 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic hobbled the industry last year.

Allegiant announced in June that it would “add a new dot on its network map” and launch service in Melbourne, along with three other new cities: Amarillo, Texas; Washington, D.C.; and Minneapolis.

“We operate a large-gauge aircraft, and we’re solely focused on leisure travel,” said Thayne Klingler, Allegiant director of airport affairs. “It’s our goal to make air travel affordable for individuals and families, and let them come from smaller and midsized cities that don’t have the type of nonstop service that we offer.”

West Melbourne resident Leah Guljord bought a ticket for Allegiant’s first flight from Melbourne to Concord. Then, during Thursday’s ceremony, while she waited at Gate 4, she won a raffle drawing for a free round-trip ticket.

“This is fantastic. Because my friend lives right outside of Concord. So I can just hop on a plane and go see her,” Guljord said.

“A weekend trip to Nashville if you want: It’s so good to have our little airport grow up to be a big airport. And it’s only 10 minutes from my house,” she said.

Melbourne airport officials are promoting the new flights by offering up to three days of free parking for Allegiant passengers in November and December.