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Allegiant discontinues Duluth-Phoenix flights

Maintenance crews work on an Allegiant Air McDonnell Douglas MD-83 aircraft at the Duluth International Airport in Duluth on May 19, 2012. The airline announced Wednesday it is discontinuing air service between Duluth and Phoenix-Mesa, Ariz. (2012 file / News Tribune)

Allegiant Air has ended its direct flights between Duluth and Phoenix-Mesa. The service, which was suspended June 1 for the slow summer season, will not resume in mid-November as planned.

“It’s a disappointment, there’s no question,” said Natalie Peterson, a Duluth International Airport spokeswoman. “We’re sad to see it go.”

The discount airline informed the Duluth airport on Tuesday that it was ending its Phoenix service, with no plans to bring it back. Those with flight reservations will be contacted directly by the airline for a full refund.

“We were just not seeing the demand on the route that we would like to see,” Allegiant spokeswoman Jessica Wheeler told the News Tribune. “Ultimately, it was not as popular and profitable as we had hoped,”

Back in October 2011, when Allegiant added twice weekly flights between Duluth and Phoenix, it was big news.

The expanded air service was greeted with enthusiasm by city leaders and travelers alike. Many eagerly booked flights in those early months, pushing Allegiant’s Duluth passenger total to a high of nearly 73,000 in 2012.

But after the initial rush, bookings leveled off.

As far as Peterson knew, however, the Phoenix route was still doing well, especially as a cold weather destination.

“Our flights have been pretty full,” she said. “It was well received by the community.”

Allegiant, Air, a low-cost airline which flies to major tourist destinations, has been serving Duluth for eight-and-a-half years, beginning with regular non-stop flights to Las Vegas. Seasonal flights to Orlando-Sanford, Fla., followed in 2009, then to Phoenix-Mesa in 2011. The Phoenix flights were year-round until this year’s seasonal suspension.

“At this time this is the only service we are canceling,” Wheeler said of the Phoenix flights.

The Las Vegas and Orlando flights to and from Duluth will continue, although the Orlando flights are on summer hiatus.

The end of Duluth’s Phoenix service follows the cancellation of Rochester’s Phoenix flights in May. But Rochester fared worse than Duluth. The Phoenix flights were Rochester’s sole Allegiant service, causing the airline to pull out of that market.