Bellingham has sought nonstop flights going east. One airline is stepping up

An Allegiant Air flight flies into the Bellingham International Airport, March 30, 2013. Allegiant will start offering nonstop flights from Bellingham to Denver in May.
An Allegiant Air flight flies into the Bellingham International Airport, March 30, 2013. Allegiant will start offering nonstop flights from Bellingham to Denver in May. The Bellingham Herald file

Flights to Denver are returning to the Bellingham International Airport.

Allegiant Airlines announced it will begin offering non-stop flights between Bellingham and Denver on May 18. The flights would be seasonal at first, happening on Fridays and Mondays through the summer. It’s possible it could eventually turn into a year-round route, said Michelle Whaley, a spokeswoman for the company. The introductory fares begin at $59 one way and are available starting March 7.

Whaley said that in Allegiant’s research, Bellingham and British Columbia travelers showed a strong interest in flying to Denver.

“We are thrilled to see our services growing at Bellingham International Airport, especially since it is a base of ours,” Whaley said.

Securing flights to Denver has been a high priority for officials at the airport, who have also heard the requests from travelers. Sunil Harman, the Port of Bellingham’s aviation director, said the data consistently showed strong seasonal demand for Denver.

In 2012 Frontier Airlines offered seasonal non-stop flights between Bellingham and Denver, but discontinued it in 2015 after it shifted its planes to other areas, Harman said. During those flights, the seats were on average more than 80 percent full. In 2014 Frontier flew about 7,500 passengers to Denver.

Harman said projections indicate the seats during the two Allegiant flights a week to Denver will average about 85 percent full.

Harman noted that when Frontier was offering flights between Bellingham and Denver, it was capturing as much as 23 percent of the passengers flying into Denver for the Northwest market. Last year, even without direct service, Bellingham served 9 percent of the regional demand to the Mile-High City.

Allegiant plans to use its Airbus A319 and A320 planes for its Bellingham to Denver flights. Those planes have 156 and 177 seats respectively, according to Allegiant.

Along with Whatcom County, Whaley expects this route to be a hit with surrounding communities in Canada. Many of the passengers in Allegiant’s current flights out of Bellingham are Canadian, she said.

Harman noted that Denver serves more than 140 destinations, including many to the East Coast. However, he noted in the past the Bellingham to Denver flights served more travelers wanting to visit the Colorado region.

With the addition of Denver, Allegiant offers flights from Bellingham to seven different cities.

This announcement is also expected to boost passenger traffic through the Bellingham airport.

The number of passengers flying out of Bellingham has continued to decline in recent years. According to data collected by the Port of Bellingham, 373,877 people flew out of the airport in 2017, a 10.8 percent drop compared to 2016. The peak year for the airport was in 2013, when nearly 600,000 people flew out of Bellingham.

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Dave Gallagher: 360-715-2269, @BhamHeraldBiz