US ultra low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines is to further expand its presence at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Latrobe with the launch of a daily service to Las Vegas from April 16, 2015. The new route adds to Spirit’s existing links to Fort Lauderdale and Orlando and seasonal flights to Myrtle Beach.
Spirit Airlines is currently the only scheduled operator to serve the small facility located two miles southwest of Latrobe and about 33 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. The airport previously served as a capacity reliever to Pittsburgh International Airport on the other side of the Pittsburgh metropolitan area but the last of the US majors pulled out in the 2000s when US Airways ended a regional link to Pittsburgh in July 2004 and Northwest Airlines closed its route to Detroit in July 2009.
The arrival of Spirit Airlines in Latrobe in February 2011 has represented a major step in the rejuvenation of Arnold Palmer Regional Airport as a low-cost alternative to Pittsburgh. The budget carrier initially launched operations with a single route to Fort Lauderdale but quickly added seasonal flights to Myrtle Beach in May 2011. Orlando joined the network in May 2012 and a route to Dallas followed in June 2013 although this was terminated after less than a year in April 2014. New seasonal winter services to Fort Myers and Tampa will be introduced from December 2014.
"Non-stop flights to fabulous Las Vegas are sure to be popular with our customers in Western Pennsylvania," said Mark Kopczak, vice president of network planning, Spirit Airlines. He highlighted that Spirit’s low-fares will mean there's more money for them to spend on the wide variety of entertainment and hotel options when they arrive in Las Vegas.
"We're convinced that this new destination is going to be immensely popular" said Gabe Monzo, Westmoreland County Airport Authority Executive Director. "When Spirit gets this route up and running, we will be doing four very popular flights every day. It's going to be crazy around here, but that's the kind of crazy we like. We can't wait!"
The new Spirit service will bring some much needed additional capacity to Las Vegas to the wider Pennsylvanian market. The popular entertainment destination is currently only served on a twice daily basis from Pittsburgh International Airport by Southwest Airlines after US Airways closed its own flights in May 2010.
In our analysis, below, we look at passenger demand on this route over the past ten years, separating the passenger figures of those airlines that have offered non-stop flights from the many passengers flying with US majors via a third party hub.
The history of flying at Latrobe dates back to the mid 1920s with the first recorded flights from Longview Flying Field in 1924. The facility became known as JD Hill Airport in 1928, Latrobe Airport in 1935 and Westmoreland County Airport in 1978 but took its present name in 1999 to honour the Youngstown native golf legend Arnold Palmer who grew up less than a mile from the runway.