STRAIGHT OUT OF STOCKTON (airport)


Weeks of  indecision costs me.  Was I driving or flying to Las Vegas?  A drive would take 10 hours and even in my fuel efficient car, gas would cost about $82 each way.   After a few days of an exhausting  internet search, the best fare I found was out of Oakland, however parking and fuel cost from Sacramento virtually erased any savings

A few years ago I remembered a story of a small airline out of  Stockton, that offered flights between Stockton and Las Vegas .

Allegiant is one of the two no frills airlines in northern California (Spirit Airlines  flys out of Oakland) .    When I intially visited the Allegiants web site, it was a case of this is too good to be true.     After spendng an infurating  hour on Spirit’s sites I reach a conclusion  the sites on the no-frills airlines are purposely difficult.

Allegiant allows the user not only to book a flight, but in encourages the user to book an Las Vegas hotel, shows, rental cars and transportation to and from the airport.   Users pay a fee each way for a pre assigned seats,a fee a fee for booking online. a fee for luggage.

Unlike other sites, navigating  Allegiant site is a slow process, certain boxes has to be unchecked.  The reward was a  $105.00 round trip ticket from Stockton and Las Vegas including all fees and taxes.   $97.oo less than the name your price fare on Priceline and  $180.00 less on the best published fare.

The next challenge was the great unknowns.    Allegent Air and the  Stockton Airport.      United Airlines  was the first commercial airline  using the converted , Stockton Metropolitian Aiport off hwy 99.  That was 1946.  It was joined by PSA (bought by US Air)  Continental, Frontier and a couple others.  Commercial service ended when America West pulled out of Stockton in 2003.

In 2006, Allegiant Air began service between Stockton and Las Vegas ,last  month service began between Stockton and Palm Springs.

ALLEGIANT AIRLINES

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Allegent Air began flying in 1998.   The Las Vegas based carrier focus is on the lesisure traveler, the primary destinations are Las Vegas, Orlando and Phoenix.    The airline serves Mesa Arizona,  Bellingham Washinton, and many other cities.   There are no  frequent flyer programs , no free coffee or peanuts.     A third of the airlines revenues  comes from hotel ,event and car rental bookings.

Allegents fleet is made up of  older,MD 80 and Boeing”s 757

For $15.00 the Airline offers Flex Trip,  Unlimited reservation changes (date, flight, or destination) at no charge are permitted up to 24 hours prior to departure. Customers will be responsible for any change in price of airfare.

 Forbes magazine  has named Allegiant one of  America’s  best small companies , the airline has ranked in the top 10 for the last three years .   It received Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Aviation Maintenance Technician (AMT) Diamond Award of Excellence in August 2010.  Ranking  higher than many major carriers. In August 2010, the airline received. Aviation Week ranked the airline as the ‘Top Performing Low-Cost Carrier’ and it has also entered the list of 25 under the Fortune 100 Fastest Growing Companies category.

THE ALLEGIANT EXPERIENCE

Passengers  who choose the open seating option must wait in line where they are handed a bording pass.  The pass has a number, the later your arrival the higher the number.  Again they advise a two hour window, much longer than most Airlines.  Very late travelers will  be heartbroken as the  counters close 45 minutes before departure   The airline strictly inforces the baggage size rule, however they offered to check my small back for free, this was true on both legs of my flight.

The majority of Alegents fleet are the MD 80 series aircraft. The larger 757 are used on longer routes.   The MD 80 hold about 150 passengers on a three/two seat configurations.

This tall widebodied passenger found the seats confortable, arriving early, I sat in the exit row with more than ample legroom .  (Note unlike other airlines there wasn’t an extra charge in the exit row.).    The inflight service was brisk on the 55 minute flight, due in part to fees, no free peanuts or soft drinks.  The flight was nearly full in both directions, the flight staff were very pleasant and accommodating.

The target passenger for Allegiant is the leisure passenger.  In Las Vegas, I  was impatient, this isnt the airline for the frequent flyer and I found the pace of  my co-passengers trying.  However I rank the service with one of my favorite carriers Jet Blue.   As a frequent traveler prices isnt the overiding factor.  Being a big and tall man, I avoid airlines  using the popular Boeing 737, I find the narrow and short seats excruciating,even on the shortest flights.   Most of the Airlines are understaffed, and the passengers are stuffed in non ventilated tubes genuine smiles are in short supply.

EXPERIENCING STOCKTON AIRPORT

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I knew it was off Highway 99. I knew it was south of the city.  After making the right turn off the freeway its becomes challenging.   If there where signs, I missed them all.   There are no hotel’s, no service stations, restaurant’s or a Seven 11.    If you miss the entrance, its a quarter mile error.

The terminal is one quarter the size of Sacramento’s smallest terminal A.   Parking is directly across the street from the terminal.  If you parked at the farthest  ends of the parking lot your walk would be less than 300 feet.   Parking cost in an unheard of  $5.00 dollars a day which you prepay in the terminal, cash or check only (yes I said check).    Allegiant is the only airline.   Security is a maximum 10 minutes, if your arriving late.    The gift/newspaper stand is about the size of the average walk in closet.  The terminal is clean and pleasant.   There is a small restaurant and an Enterprise Car Rental.    The facility is open only when Allegiant in operation.

Looking for the proper carousel  when you return is unnecessary, there is only one. Simple!!!

VERDICT      

 If your a business traveler, you’ve noticed a major increase in airline taxes and fees imposed by the large Airports.    My Priceline car rental in Atlanta Hartsfield Airport was $45.00 the taxes and fees where 48.73.   These fees often pay for Airport expansion ( Sacramento will see increases next year) surcharges to pay for  Arenas and Convention Centers.

Allegiant and Stockton Airport exceeded my expectations.    Price,comfort,convenience and service.      However, only as a  leisure travel.    The airline  If you areWith large cities adding airline fees, and surcharges to fund arenas, convention centers, and airport expansiom to the price of an airline ticket and cars rented at the airport. .  Yes, Price,service, convenience, comfort.

Allegiant Airlines is near many large cities.   http://www.allegiantair.com

Cityfella

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