Last updated on March 17th, 2020 at 01:37 pm
Allegiant Air and Volaris are no longer offering flights out of Mitchell International Airport while Southwest Airlines has eliminated some flights and added others.
Volaris offered trips to Guadalajara, Mexico and Allegiant offered trips to Fort Myers, Tampa, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Phoenix.
Neither Volaris or Allegiant responded to a request for comment. However, both airlines say competition was the reason behind leaving Milwaukee, according to Pat Rowe, Mitchell International Airport director of Air Service Development.
“With air service, it’s always about the profitability of a route,” Rowe said. “And airlines, like any other business, they are looking to use their assets on routes that will be most profitable to them.”
Volaris and Allegiant were lured to Milwaukee in 2017 by the “MKE Air Service Incentive Program,” a program formed to attract airlines to Milwaukee.
In 2013, similar programs, including Milwaukee’s, were developed all over the nation as a response to the changing airline industry, which was disrupted by a series of mergers, rising cost of fuel and other economic factors.
It’s not clear exactly what incentives Allegiant and Volaris received. The Milwaukee program offers a combination of fee waivers and marketing spending to promote service to select cities.
“In some cases, such as MKE’s 2017 addition of service to Nashville and to Salt Lake City, the incentivized markets are highly successful,” Rowe said. “In the case of Allegiant and Volaris, for a variety of reasons, the airlines determined their aircraft would generate more profit on other routes, and redeployed them.”
In the case of Allegiant, it was the third or fourth airline on each of its routes from Milwaukee, Rowe said.
“If one or more of the other airlines adds seats or flights on the route, it generally results in lower airfares – which is great for passengers – but creates competitive pressure and lower profitability for the airline,” Rowe said.
The MKE Air Service Incentive Program expired in 2017 but in 2018, the program was reauthorized and also incorporated into the 2019 Airport budget.
Funding for the program comes from the Airport Development Fund with no fiscal effect on the tax levy of Milwaukee County.
Southwest Airlines is also ending nonstop service from Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport to New York LaGuardia airport effective April 14, said Dan Landson, Southwest spokesperson.
However, Southwest is adding additional flights from Milwaukee to Baltimore, Houston and Phoenix, which means the net amount of seat capacity on Southwest from Milwaukee remains the same, Rowe said.
Milwaukee also has nonstop service to New York LaGuardia five times a day on Delta Air Lines and to New York Newark four times a day on United Airlines, Rowe added.
Mitchell International recently launched a campaign that encourages travelers to fly locally rather than driving to O’Hare.
The campaign is called “Choose MKE,” and suggests that if people choose Mitchell International Airport over O’Hare, they could boost Wisconsin’s economy by $233 million, generate 600 jobs and add dozens of flights.