Okaloosa, Fla. - Today, Governor Rick Scott announced that Allegiant Travel Company (Allegiant) has chosen to establish a new, two-aircraft base with year-round routes at Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport (VPS). The aircraft base will create 65 new jobs and bring an anticipated $418 million in tourism revenue to the area over the next five years. Allegiant is investing more than $49 million to establish the year-round base, which will house two Airbus aircraft. The new Destin base will also allow Allegiant to offer new routes to five cities. Allegiant currently supports more than 25,000 Florida jobs and generates nearly $3 billion in annual economic impact in the state. In May 2018, Allegiant will permanently locate two Airbus A320 aircraft at VPS and hire permanent local employees. One of the unique focuses of Allegiant is to bring customers from previously underserved destinations, not to compete for existing market share.
Governor Scott said, "I am proud to announce Allegiant has chosen to establish a new aircraft base at Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport, which will create 65 new jobs. Today's announcement is a great reminder of how our tourism industry supports Florida business and communities and creates new opportunities for our families. Tourism partners like Allegiant work hand-in-hand with VISIT FLORIDA to bring more visitors to our state and we must make sure this success continues by fully funding VISIT FLORIDA at $100 million. I look forward to seeing Allegiant's success in Destin and across the state as we continue to welcome families from all across the world to Florida."
Allegiant's service in Destin-Fort Walton Beach began with six routes in 2016 and expanded to 16 cities in 2017. The new Destin base will become the airline's 14th year-round aircraft base. Allegiant plans to immediately begin hiring pilots, flight attendants, maintenance technicians and ground personnel to support operations. Positions are expected to offer average salaries more than double the area's average wage.
Maurice J. Gallagher, Jr., Allegiant's chairman and CEO, said, "We are excited to continue our growth in Florida's Emerald Coast by establishing a full-time base at Destin-Fort Walton Beach. The base will not only afford many more options when it comes to adding routes and expanding service, but will also give us the opportunity to contribute even more to the community and the state's economy. We have a terrific partnership across many state and local agencies, without which today would not be possible. We can't thank them enough for their support."
Ken Lawson, CEO of VISIT Florida, said, "Allegiant's decision to make Destin a base of their operations and create new routes to the Emerald Coast is great news for Florida's tourism industry. By opening new airline routes to our state, we're able to share sunshine with more people around the world. VISIT FLORIDA is proud to play a small part in Allegiant's decision, and we look forward to working with them to welcome more visitors and continue to set visitation records to our state."
Peter Antonacci, CEO of Enterprise Florida, said, "The establishment of Allegiant's new base at Destin-Fort Walton Beach is great news for our Emerald Coast families. Governor Scott has worked hard to make Florida the most business friendly state in the nation."
Cissy Proctor, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, said, "The exciting decision by Allegiant Travel Company to expand their routes to the Emerald Coast is another sign that Florida's business friendly policies are having significant impacts on our economy."
"Allegiant Air's new announcement is such great news for the people of Okaloosa County. The creation of a new hub for a national airline that comes with over 65 new jobs at the Destin/Ft. Walton Beach Airport helps fulfill our mission of creating additional high-paying jobs in the county," said Commissioner Graham Fountain, Chairman of the Okaloosa County Commission.
"The partnership that we have enjoyed with Allegiant Air has helped to make us the fastest growing destination in the Southeast," said Carolyn Ketchel, Commissioner and Aviation Board Member. "We are thrilled to have this additional base of operations that will bring new destinations and jobs."
The project was made possible through strong partnerships between Enterprise Florida, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Visit Florida, Okaloosa County Airport System and Tourist Development Council, Okaloosa County Government, the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County.
"We are thrilled! Allegiant Air's model fits like a glove at VPS and a year-round base will bring monumental wide spread economic impacts to our region. We look forward to Allegiant's continued success at the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport," said Tracy Stage, Okaloosa County Airports Director.
"Allegiant's decision to name Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport a year round base is a win for the countless travelers who will benefit from the expanded service, and also a win for the 65 customer service personnel, aircraft maintainers and flight crew members who will now be hired to support the service expansion," said Nathan Sparks, Executive Director of the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County.
"The Tourist Development Council is very excited about Destin Fort Walton Beach Airport being named a base city and offering additional flights from new and emerging markets," said TDC Chairman, Bruce Craul. "We have supported Allegiant since they first offered flights to our destination and look forward to a continued partnership for years to come."