Allegiant Airlines surveyed its customers and found that many are enthusiastic about returning to the skies, does this foretell something about the leisure traveller market?
Allegiant Focuses Largely on Leisure Markets
Allegiant Air follows an LCC model that Ryan Air once pioneered. Customers will fly from nowhere to somewhere, or somewhere to nowhere but not nowhere to nowhere.
For example, Ryan Air had two proxy airports for expensive Barcelona Al Prat International. The carrier would fly to Reus or Girona from major markets like Manchester or Birmingham where there was no alternative airport though both are a considerable distance (45 minutes) from Barcelona proper. They found that customers were willing to fly from their home airports and take a bus or train to their destination but would not do so on both sides of the journey.
Allegiant will fly from practically any airport to Las Vegas, Orlando or New Orleans, and from Punta Gorda, FL (north of Fort Myers 45 minutes, south of Tampa 80 minutes) on leisure market schedules. They fly nearly no business routes with any regularity.
Customer Survey Results
Seth Miller at Pax Aero gave a detailed report of Allegiant’s customer base survey results. One of the few bright spots of positivity in the travel world, respondents from smaller markets favor a faster reopening than what has been seen in larger markets. He notes the disparity between Allegiant’s results vs. broad national surveys on the same topic.
CMO Scott DeAngelo said, “Most tracking surveys out there have asked the question about you go all in for public health, or do you balance public health with the needs of the economy. The nation as a whole has been 50-50. The Allegiant customer base has been 75/25, every time we’ve asked that question in favor of you balance public health with the needs of the economy and you get out there. So our footprint just don’t happen to mirror one where the sentiment is very different than a general cost survey that captures New York, Dallas, Atlanta, and Los Angeles.”
The C-suite also discussed that searches on their website have increased but they will need NFL games, theme parks and Casinos to begin reopening to close the gap as restrictions ease. Many of the respondents also indicated that their financial situation had stayed the same or improved in the coronavirus crisis, surprisingly.
Small Market or Leisure Market?
The real question is whether this is a small market issue or a leisure market conclusion. Smaller markets are traditionally conservative and fall on the side of reopening the country to save the economy over extending lockdowns over public health concerns. Larger, business markets like New York and Chicago typically lean left and weigh polling results as their populace is larger and their markets focused on businesses. As commenter, Jason, said last week:
“Most of my friends who travel for work every week work for the [Deloittes], McKinseys, [Price Waterhouse Coopers], [Boston Consulting Groups] of the world. That’s what powers the travel demand. Their companies [won’t] let them travel (one said he’d be fired if he broke policy) and their clients won’t pay for it/ don’t want them coming into their premises (and most of their clients are working remotely too). Until that changes, there won’t be a huge resurgence in demand.”
However, there is another possibility. While Spirit and Frontier also fly heavily into leisure markets, Spirit runs lots of major business markets as well. Leisure customers have been cooped up in their homes, cancelled trips and may represent wanderlust that will lead to a leisure recovery when business may take longer to return. Many readers of this blog have debated openly (and likely more in private) whether they could sneak away for a quick change of scenery.
Of the two possible conclusions, I lean heavier toward the leisure market returning faster based in part on anecdotal experiences. Communication with readers, friends, and family has led me to believe that pent up desire to head anywhere that’s not home is informing traveller’s opinions. Further, business travel between major markets has anemic availability and prices are very high, while leisure travel is far more competitive.
What do you think? Is Allegiant’s customer survey result a sign of enthusiasm from leisure travellers, smaller markets or something else?