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Allegiant Air pulling out of Gary airport

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.  |  Sun-Times Media

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson. | Sun-Times Media

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Allegiant Air plans to discontinue passenger service from Gary to Sanford, Fla., in August, officials with Gary/Chicago International Airport said Friday night.

The company remains open to discussing other opportunities at the airport, Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said. The airport’s large-scale runway expansion project and a potential public-private partnership have accelerated discussions with other airlines, she said.

“The airline industry is taking notice and other airlines are expressing an interest in Gary,” Freeman-Wilson said.

Las Vegas-based Allegiant Travel Co. begin flying between Gary and Sanford on Feb. 15, 2012. Beginning June 5, weekly flight service will switch to Wednesdays and Saturdays with one-way flights starting at $70, airport officials said.

In a letter sent to the airport on May 17, Allegiant said it anticipates the last flight to Sanford will be Aug. 10.

The mayor said she was disappointed but not surprised by the announcement.

“I don’t have their numbers, and I know there were a lot of people happy with the service,” she said. “Our office will continue to work with the airport to get more business there.”

Interim airport director Steve Landry said changes at the airport are making the location more competitive.

“An expanded runway to accommodate coast-to-coast destinations and larger aircraft changes the airport’s competitive advantage significantly,” Landry said. “Right now, Allegiant’s service to Gary isn’t consistent with their revenue model. However, they remain open to talking to us about future possibilities.”

An airport ad hoc committee is soliciting ideas for a public-private partnership this summer and then hopes to request formal proposals.

Construction to extend the 7,000-foot runway by 1,900 feet is expected to cost $166 million. An $11.6 million overpass tied to that expansion opened earlier this month.

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