It also didn't seem to matter that the service from Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport avoids Orlando's major international airport where AirTran currently flies. Instead, Allegiant uses the much smaller Orlando Sanford International Airport that is located in Seminole County northeast of the city that hosts Walt Disney World in its southwest quadrant.
The new Allegiant service is expected to help shore up demand for flights to the resort city ahead of AirTran Airways' planned departure from Newport News in March as part of its merger with Southwest Airlines.
After arriving at the Orlando Sanford airport Wednesday evening, a Virginia Beach passenger who only identified himself as Skip said he "enjoyed a great flight" with his wife and daughter. The family was going to visit an aeronautical university and cited the cheap, direct flight as the reason they chose not to fly from Norfolk.
Also on the nearly full inaugural flight was Peninsula Airport Commission Chairman Steven Mallon and fellow commission members LaDonna Finch and Hampton City Councilman George Wallace. They were joined by Ken Spirito, executive director of the Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport, several other airport officials, the Daily Press and about 20 representatives of area travel agencies and companies such as Canon and Ferguson Enterprises. The group was on a "familiarization" tour sponsored by the Orlando Sanford airport to acquaint them with the facility and its proximity to area attractions.
Passengers looking to take advantage of Allegiant's economical fares should pay attention to add-on fees some of which are avoidable while purchasing tickets.
The fare purchased by the Daily Press was advertised at $33 each way. But by the time a $28 "seat selection fee" (that didn't allow a particular seat to be selected) was added along with an additional $17 "convenience fee" and other taxes and fees, the total ticket price came to $132 round trip. Allegiant also charges $35 per checked bag.
Proximity to attractions
Once the flight to Orlando Sanford airport concludes, passengers will find themselves about 46 miles from Disney World a drive that took exactly 50 minutes on Highway 417, a moderately traveled four-lane toll road that acts as a beltway around the eastern confines of Orlando. The same trip on Interstate 4, that bisects Orlando, took about five minutes less and had no tolls but was more heavily traveled.
Using the toll road, it takes about 25 minutes to travel from Orlando International Airport to Disney at a cost of $3. Conversely, the longer trip from the Orlando Sanford airport to Disney costs $2 more in tolls.
While the distance from Orlando Sanford to Disney may seem significant, there are other differences to consider which can affect travel times.
Sanford serves about 1.5 million passengers each year while about 35 million fliers pour through Orlando International annually, said Greg Dull, Orlando Sanford International Airport's vice president and director of marketing.