Pittsburgh International Airport CEO Christina Cassotis and Allegiant Air CEO Maury Gallagher talk about industry issues at Future Travel Experience in Las Vegas on Dec. 8, 2021. (Photo courtesy of FTE)

Allegiant CEO: New Alliance Means More Service to Mexico

Vacation seekers looking to Mexico’s warm beaches should expect more nonstop options as a result of Allegiant’s new alliance agreement with Mexican carrier Viva Aerobus.

“We really want to take our customers, which we’re very much a leisure company, into… Mexico beaches – Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Los Cabos, [places] like that,” Allegiant CEO Maury Gallagher said. “If you want to go to Mexico in many instances, you’re connecting through a hub. What we do, all of our stuff is nonstop.”

Gallagher’s comments came during a wide-ranging interview with Pittsburgh International Airport CEO Christina Cassotis at last week’s Future Travel Experience conference in Las Vegas.

The alliance, announced Dec. 1, is the first such venture for Las Vegas-based Allegiant and Viva Aerobus — and the first of its kind in the airline industry between two ultra-low-cost carriers (ULCCs).

Cassotis asked Gallagher about everything from the new alliance agreement to his propensity for being underestimated.

“So why this works, and why this is really a fantastic match, is you don’t have the name recognition in Mexico [and] they don’t have the name recognition in the U.S. — and you’ve got similar business models. Put them together and all of a sudden, it’s really kind of one plus one equals three, isn’t it?” Cassotis asked.

“Absolutely,” Gallagher said, noting more nonstop routes will be served.

The carriers plan to begin offering flights under the agreement in the first quarter of 2023, pending approval by the U.S. Department of Transportation. More than 250 new potential route opportunities have been identified as part of the DOT application, though specific routes targeted for service will be announced at a later date, following approval.

“You have a thematic way of attacking this industry. Is there a word that would describe this? That you would say, ‘This is how we look at everything?” Cassotis asked.

“I think that meaning is the word ‘different,’” Gallagher said. “Everything I talk to our folks about, culture-wise: if everyone’s going left, I want to go right.”

The interview was one of several discussions with industry executives at the FTE conference, with topics ranging from vertiports and hyperloops to sustainable fuel and aircraft technology.

Sustainability and multimodal transportation

A United Airlines flight that used 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) the week before heralded a focus on sustainability at the conference from all parts of the aviation industry.

Michael Leskinen, president of United Airlines Ventures, spoke about that flight and the carrier’s strategy of taking “strategic risks” to invest in new technology or companies that could enhance the company’s sustainability efforts.

But it’s not just airlines focusing on SAF, which is created without fossil fuels. Avinor executive Idar Sørgjerd talked about the state-owned Norwegian airport operator’s partnerships to produce SAF based on biomass residue from the nation’s robust timber industry.

From left, Marina Fonseca Medina, Patrice Gordon and Diana Zhou discuss the Virgin Group’s vision for global travel in the future. (Photo courtesy of Future Travel Experience)

Electric vehicles and multimodal transportation were also hot topics, as many agreed that the future of commercial air travel will be inextricably tied to other forms of transportation.

An opening keynote from Virgin executives Patrice Gordon, Marina Fonseca Medina and Diana Zhou envisioned a scenario in less than 15 years where a consumer could leave their home anywhere in the world and take a vacation involving hotels and cruises and use Virgin platforms for the entire trip.

Those platforms could include the Virgin Hyperloop, which is being tested just outside the conference’s Las Vegas base, and VTOLs, or vertical takeoff-and-landing aircraft — in addition to the company’s current airline, hotel and cruise ship holdings.

In particular, electric VTOLs were mentioned prominently as the next most likely evolution in commercial transportation. (Think drones big enough to carry people.)

Joe Alesia of Ferrovial and Will Nicholas of Lilium discussed their companies’ partnership to develop a network of “vertiports” in Florida that would serve eVTOLs independently of airports.

“Airports tend to be reactive, rather than proactive,” Alesia said. “Why aren’t airports talking about this right now?”

Nicholas said they are seeing a lot of engagement from communities in Florida looking for innovative solutions to population density and traffic issues.

“The goal is to improve access without increasing congestion and the cost of maintenance at the surface level,” he said.

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