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Allegiant Traffic Rises

Discount airline Allegiant Air continued to buck industry trends last year by recording an increase in passenger traffic numbers despite more available capacity, the airline announced Tuesday.

The Las Vegas-based carrier increased its traffic 28.1 percent in 2009 to 4.48 billion passenger miles, even though the company’s passenger seat capacity increased 27.4 percent.

Percentage of seats filled climbed slightly to 90.4 percent from 89.9 percent in 2008. The company had 4.92 million passengers last year.

The airline, which flies from smaller cities to travel destinations such as Las Vegas and Orlando, Fla., said traffic increased 18.6 percent to 406.2 million passenger miles in December, outpacing its capacity growth of 16.1 percent for the month.

Fourth-quarter traffic increased 25.4 percent 1.05 billion passenger miles while capacity grew 24.7 percent. Percentage of seats filled for December and the fourth quarter was nearly 90 percent.

The data comes a day after Allegiant announced an agreement to buy 18 MD-80 airplanes from Scandinavian Airlines System. The company said 13 of the planes will be in service by the end of 2011 and five would be used for parts.

The company will take delivery of the aircraft during the first three quarters of this year.

The purchase, which is estimated at $4 million per plane including maintenance and conversion costs, is expected to satisfy the company’s growth needs through 2011, the company said in a statement.

"Our ability to acquire such highly reliable aircraft at attractive economics permits Allegiant to closely tailor our capacity to demand, a key element of our leisure-oriented business model," Allegiant Chief Financial Officer and President Andrew Levy said in a statement. "We believe these are clearly the best MD-80 aircraft available, having an unbeatable maintenance pedigree and being sister ships to 11 aircraft already in our fleet, thereby enhancing fleet commonality."

This is the fifth transaction between Scandinavian Airlines Systems and Allegiant, which now operates 46 MD-80 aircraft.

Allegiant expects to operate 52 aircraft by the end of this year and 60 by the end of 2011.

Allegiant Air is a wholly owned subsidiary of Allegiant Travel Co.

Allegiant Travel Co. shares rose $1.67, or 3.48 percent, Tuesday to close at $49.68 on the Nasdaq National Market.

Contact reporter Arnold M. Knightly at aknightly@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893.

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