While the Baton Rouge Metro Airport still hasn’t inked a deal with an airline to replace ViaAir, airport officials say they see the most potential with either Allegiant or Frontier.
However, neither carrier markets regular flights to Austin—a significant change from Via, which built its short-lived clout on its recurring flights to the popular destination.
Neither carrier has committed to coming here, but airport spokesman Jim Caldwell says BTR officials spoke with each airline nearly two months ago at the 2019 JumpStart Air Service Development Conference in Nashville. The airport is targeting both, believing either would fare well in Baton Rouge.
The troubled Via—which offered nonstop direct flights to Austin and Orlando—canceled its partnership with BTR, among other airports, in May, just eight months after entering the local market. If secured, the Allegiant service would likely offer regular flights to Orlando and Las Vegas, while Frontier would more likely fly to Orlando and Denver.
“They’re our two best prospects, but neither is using Austin as a focus city for our market,” Caldwell says, adding either service would be less than daily. “We’re always pursuing new services on multiple carriers—anyone that will meet with us.”
He says the airport also considered pursuing Southwest to replace the Via service, but the airline is pulling out of smaller airports in an effort to expand its other markets. It’s a similar case with Spirit, which Caldwell says tends to focus on bigger, destination markets that can fulfill a demand for daily flights.
When it comes to attracting new carriers, the airport faces several challenges. Its standard incentive package, for example, waives landing fees and carrier-specific rents and helps with advertising, but doesn’t provide any revenue guarantees like similarly sized competitors in Gulfport and Shreveport.
In the past 12 months, Caldwell says BTR has also met with American, Delta and United, as well as some smaller, service-oriented airlines such as Southern Airways Express.
“If they’ve got a good business model and enough cash reserves to sustain themselves for a couple of years, we’re amenable to it,” he says.