In this 2013 photo, an Allegiant Air jetliner flies by the Luxor Resort & Casino after takeoff. An Allegiant Air spokesperson says there has been a 4.5 per cent increase in Canadian flyers this year across the board, including out of the Minot terminal, the airline's closest centre to Brandon.
More and more Canadians are driving south before they fly south, according to an official from Allegiant Travel Company.
Justin Ralenkotter, a spokesperson for the air carrier, said the company has seen a 4.5 per cent increase in Canadian flyers this year across the board.
At the Minot terminal, the closest Allegiant centre to Brandon, 35 per cent of passengers in 2013 were Canucks.
"We’ve seen significant growth year-over-year of Canadians coming across the border to fly," Ralenkotter said.
Allegiant flies direct to two destinations (Las Vegas and Phoenix) from Minot. It also flies to Orlando, from Bismarck, where six per cent of planes are filled with Canadian passengers.
Ralenkotter said the Las Vegas flight is the most popular out of the options.
The reason for choosing an American carrier is simple, according to Ralenkotter, it boils down to cost.
"A big part of it is airfare, which is fairly high in Canada."
Ralenkotter insists Allegiant doesn’t compete with carriers in Canada, believing the company "stimulates" people who otherwise wouldn’t be flying.
The company is also looking at offering direct flights from border airports to sun destinations such as Mexico.
"We have announced that we are working to starting service to Mexico," Ralenkotter said. "It’s an ongoing process that has been pushed back to 2015, but is a goal we’re working toward."
Rob Mowbray took a flight from Minot to Las Vegas for four days in June with his wife, Karly, and two friends.
"The biggest reason we chose Minot is because it’s cheaper to fly and cheaper to park," he said, adding that if they flew out of Winnipeg, by the time they drove through the city to the airport, the two-and-a-half hour trip to Minot was just as close.
The trip cost approximately $600 for airfare and four nights in a hotel.
A quick look at the Allegiant website shows deals to Vegas and Phoenix for under $100 one-way, with some prices below $70 on certain days.
Mowbray said the service on the flight was great, but one area of unexpected cost was baggage check, where it cost between $40-$50 per person to check luggage.
As for the trip, "Vegas is Vegas, it’s non-stop action," Mowbray said.
City of Brandon airport manager Tim Sanderson said the United States has a competitive advantage when it comes to flight pricing.
"The funding structure is different for airports," Sanderson said. "Most of the capital improvements are funded by the government, and airports are very capital heavy."
Government investment eliminates the need for the pricey and dreaded "airport improvement fees" that irk flyers travelling out of Canadian terminals.
While it has been well documented how much "leakage" hurts the Winnipeg airport, Sanderson said it is less clear here.
Leakage is the amount of flyers an airport loses to another terminal due to several reasons, but most often associated with price differential.
"It’s hard to say what the impact is in Brandon because (flying from the United States’ side of the border) was well established before we even got air service," Sanderson said. "The leakage was already occurring before WestJet was here and if anything it’s probably went down with the service we have here now."
» Twitter: @CharlesTweed
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 19, 2014