Allegiant Air's Success Comes With No Frills

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Allegiant Air has some of the lowest fare prices in the industry: A ticket from Pennsylvania to Florida, for example, can run as low as $29 one-way. That price assumes you don't need to check a bag, choose your seat, board first or fly from a major airport hub.

Allegiant flies from 65 airports, in places such as Fargo, N.D.; Allentown, Pa.; and Roanoke, Va. Managing Director Ponder Harrison says that avoiding places other airlines fly is part of the Allegiant's business plan, as is pulling out of a market if it stops making money. The airline also charges fees for baggage, seat designation and other add-ons for customers who do not want the complete no-frills experience.

"Part of the thesis was to enter markets in small-town America and take those customers to what we term 'world-class leisure destinations,' really places people want to go," Harrison says.

Those leisure destinations include Las Vegas, Orlando and Phoenix. The airline's Web site doesn't even have a button saying "book a flight." It says "book a vacation." Allegiant also does not book tickets through Orbitz, Expedia or other travel brokers. The only way to get a ticket is directly through the airline.

Allegiant has turned a profit for 24 straight quarters.

"Allegiant is a little version of what Southwest was 25 years ago," says independent aviation analyst Hubert Horan.

But Horan says Southwest has gotten so big that it's more than a bit like every other airline. It lost $91 million in the first quarter of 2009.

If Allegiant stays with its current model, it might remain one of the few success stories in the troubled airline business.

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