Shane Nelson
Shane Nelson

InsightLas Vegas-based Allegiant Air obtained FAA approval July 6 to operate Boeing 757-200 aircraft, moving the low-cost carrier a step closer to offering nonstop flights between the U.S. mainland and Hawaii.

“This is an important day for Allegiant,” Andrew Levy, the president of Allegiant Travel Co., said in a statement. “The addition of the Boeing 757-200 will play an important role in our company’s future growth.”

“We look forward to serving the Hawaiian market with the same business model that has made Allegiant so successful on the mainland: linking travelers in small cities to world-class leisure destinations,” he added.

To actually begin service to Hawaii, however, Allegiant must receive Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance certification and Flag Carrier status from the FAA for the 757-200s, enabling the company to operate long-haul, over-water flights.

According to Allegiant spokeswoman Kristine Shattuck-Cooper, the carrier hopes to have those certifications approved by the FAA in time to begin flights to the islands next summer.

“We’re doing everything we can to stay lock and key with that,” she said.

Along with its operating fleet of 51 MD-80 planes, Allegiant owns four Boeing 757-200 aircraft, three of which are under lease to European carriers until mid-2012. The airline has also agreed to purchase two additional 757-200s, accommodating up to 217 passengers in a single class, during the fourth quarter of 2011.

Shattuck-Cooper said that within six to eight months, Allegiant expects to announce exactly which U.S. mainland and Hawaii cities it will serve with nonstops.

“I can tell you that any of our small markets on the West Coast are all ones that we’re considering,” she said. “Anything that’s west of the Rockies as a small city you could count as something we’re looking at.”

One option customers likely won’t see anytime soon is an Allegiant-operated Las Vegas-to-Honolulu nonstop.

“That’s one of those things that would be such a departure from our business model I don’t see it ever happening,” Shattuck-Cooper said. “We never say never in the airline industry, but the likelihood is very slim for a market of that size to be the jumping-off point.”

Allegiant is also negotiating Hawaii-based partnerships to extend its vacation package model to the islands and will make announcements about which hotel and activity operators it will work with after finalizing the service cities. Shattuck-Cooper said the carrier will also likely extend its 10% commission rate for travel agents to future Hawaii packages that do not include promotional discounts.

“I know that Allegiant is a carrier that Hawaii is not as familiar with, but we look forward to being a great partner,” she added. “We look forward to building a strong and enjoyable relationship with Hawaii as a whole and especially the city we choose to fly into.”

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