Without scheduled air service since a newly dominant Delta airlines pulled its local flights at the end of 2009, St. Cloud Regional Airport has been a glittering shell.
Its gates and baggage areas and staff have stood ready to serve travelers from all over the region — but without the means to do so.
Charter and private flights have kept vacant skies at bay. Like any airport, a community of aviators with the means and passion to fly privately remains strong. But a commercial airport without an airline — especially an impressively expanded and renewed facility such as St. Cloud Regional Airport — is an underperformer at best.
Just after 5 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 15, all that changes when Allegiant Air sends one of its McDonnell Douglas MD-80s into the sky on a 1,200-mile, three-hour trip to Mesa, Ariz. Flight 109 is set to break St. Cloud’s long season on the ground, becoming the first scheduled commercial flight at St. Cloud Regional Airport in almost three years.
Allegiant Air is the carrier that has proven willing to take a chance on Central Minnesota. The question is: Will Central Minnesota take a chance on Allegiant?
Allegiant is an unapologetically low-cost carrier, offering low ticket prices then allowing travelers to choose what else to pay for: choosing a seat, checking luggage, carrying on a bag or having a snack. Some travelers love the a la carte model, some revile it, some don’t know enough to make a decision.
And that’s where I come in.
What do you want to know about being an Allegiant passenger? Using St. Cloud Regional Airport or Phoenix/Mesa Gateway Airport? I’m ticketed on Flight 109 with the express purpose of finding that out for you. So tell me what you want to know by emailing me at lschwarz@stcloudtimes. com or calling 320-255-8766, then watch for stories and tidbits in the Times, on sctimes.com/travel and on the Times Traveler blog after the first flight is in the logbook.
I’ll also be feeding impressions about the experience in real time on Twitter, so follow me at @LisaSSchwarz.
See you in Arizona!