EGLIN AFB — Allegiant Air has canceled its remaining summer trip season nonstop flights between St. Cloud, Minnesota, and Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport, in accordance with a July 8 announcement from St. Cloud Regional Airport later confirmed by the airline.
Allegiant started its St. Cloud service to and from the Emerald Coast on June 8, and the service was scheduled to proceed by means of Aug. 15. The route was introduced in February, as Allegiant unveiled 33 different routes from St. Cloud Regional and different airports across the nation to an array of vacationer locations, together with such Florida cities as Destin, Fort Walton Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Key West and Orlando.
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The routes had been introduced because the nation started rising from restrictions associated to the continued coronavirus pandemic. Drew Wells, the airline’s senior vp of income, mentioned on the time that as “summer approaches, we count on a whole lot of pent-up demand for journey, particularly for locations the place individuals can hike, fish, camp or go to the seashore … .”
St. Cloud Regional Airport blamed “struggles to search out workers and crew to deal with the elevated visitors for each Allegiant and Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport” in its assertion on cancellation of the flights.
Allegiant, for its half, famous that a “confluence of things” led to the early suspension of the flights. In explicit, an electronic mail from an airline spokeswoman famous that the “return of leisure journey … has made summer operations at peak occasions extremely tough for Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport … .”
‘Demand … has been unprecedented’
Okaloosa County Airports Director Tracy Stage mentioned labor shortages are affecting operations throughout the board on the airport, from rental vehicles to baggage dealing with to airport concessions. And consistent with Allegiant’s assertion on the influence of the return of leisure journey, Stage mentioned “pent-up demand has been unprecedented” on the airport.
“We’re confronted with a whole lot of challenges that a whole lot of different airports which can be vacation spot airports are going through,” he mentioned. “We even had shortages of truck drivers that ship gas.”
“We’re nonetheless struggling to draw and retain employees,” Stage added, even with fixed posting of job commercials. It’s not clear when the airport’s struggles would possibly finish, as presently the airport is seeing one thing of a seesaw impact, with job functions up one week, however job postings additionally up the following week, Stage defined.
“One day, there are candidates, and the following day there are extra positions open,” he mentioned, including, “It’s not simply VPS, it is an across-the-country dilemma.”
Stage attributed the airport’s staffing issues to unemployment advantages which can be persevering with by means of the coronavirus pandemic. In an effort to get individuals again to work, state officers on June 26 ended the state’s participation in one of many initiatives, the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, which supplied $300 weekly in supplemental unemployment advantages.
Stage famous that the St. Cloud flights to and from the Emerald Coast had been deliberate solely as a summer seasonal providing, and that as hopeful as airport officers had been, “some routes carry out higher than others.”
Allegiant flights ‘had been doing OK’
On a associated word, in a St. Cloud Times story on the canceled flights, St. Cloud Regional Airport Director Bill Towle mentioned the Allegiant flights “had been ‘doing OK’ when it comes to ridership, however flights weren’t filling up.” Also in accordance with Towle, as a result of “the route was meant to be non permanent, the airline determined to cancel the rest of the flights as a substitute of canceling one by one.”
The St. Cloud Regional Airport announcement on the flight cancellations provides that (t)he “labor scarcity has been exacerbated by dangerous climate and points associated to vital infrastructure at airports within the South as properly.” The electronic mail from Allegiant Airlines additionally makes these factors particularly with regard to Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport.
Stage agreed that climate has affected airport operations, noting current tropical storm circumstances together with important current rainfall.
But Stage added that “each airport is vulnerable to it” and that “extra occasions than not, that is going to trigger delay.”
Regarding infrastructure points on the airport, Stage mentioned the airport has taken steps to make sure that one notably notable current concern, the late June failure of a Transportation Security Administration X-ray machine that created hours-long traces, will not be repeated.
Airport officers have no direct jurisdiction over the TSA, Stage mentioned, however added that for the reason that June failure, the TSA has “adjusted some contracts with some distributors and contractors are dispatched from a lot nearer places” within the occasion of kit malfunction. In the June incident, the TSA needed to get a technician from Tampa, greater than 400 miles away, to repair the X-ray machine, and needed to have wanted elements shipped in a single day to the airport.
No different routes presently serving Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport are in jeopardy of being canceled, Stage additionally mentioned Tuesday.
Customers with tickets for the canceled flights ought to have obtained an electronic mail from Allegiant concerning the cancellation and the standing of their refund, and ought to obtain an computerized refund by means of their unique types of fee.