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Allegiant to add Provo-Bay Area flights, despite possible tower closure

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PROVO — The Provo Airport announced Wednesday new nonstop service to the San Francisco Bay area, even though Provo may have to close its tower because of automatic budget cuts.

Beginning June 7, Allegiant will start service between Provo and the Oakland International Airport.

"The potential of a flight to California has been a part of almost every conversation I've had over the past few years,” Provo Mayor John Curtis said. “I'm excited to say that we're making those wishes a reality. This flight into the Bay Area is another part of the momentum we're experiencing in Provo. It's evidence of the incredible quality of life that defines us.”

The new flights will be on Fridays and Mondays. Flight times can be found at allegiant.com.

Provo Airport Manager Steve Gleason said they are waiting to see if the FAA is going to cut their air traffic controllers as part of budget cuts.

“We are still hopeful that the control tower will remain in place,” Gleason said. He said the possible closure of the tower was discussed with Allegiant.

“They are concerned, like we are concerned,” Gleason said. “What it would mean is that they wouldn’t fly at night into the airport; so it restricts us operationally that way, but they weren’t planning on flying at night anyway.”

About 400 Utah Valley University students who are training to be pilots use the airport. During a typical day, students are taking off and landing all day long. Gleason said they are the ones who need the control tower the most.

“It’s the high volume of operations that we are worried about, not the eight to 10 additional operations that commercial service would add," he said. "We can work around that and clear the field for them."

Jessica Wheeler with Allegiant added that all of its pilots are trained to safely operate in an uncontrolled air space.

The expanded service accounts for eight operations a week, Gleason said, which isn’t much since it usually does thousands of operations a week.

“We are going to continue to use the airport to its highest and best use, and we are going to do everything we can to try and maintain a level of safety for our passengers,” he said.

Allegiant Air will introduce the new service with fares as low as $59.99 one way between the two cities. It will also offer travelers air, hotel and car rental packages. Information on flight schedules and reservations can be found at allegiant.com.

In February, the airline began service between Provo and the Phoenix/Mesa, Ariz., area, which the airline says have been very successful. The airline says flights are usually 90 to 95 percent full. Last year, the airline started service between Ogden and Phoenix-Mesa.

Allegiant was founded in 1997 in Fresno, Calif. It provides scheduled service to 79 U.S. cities.

Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc

E-mail: rjeppesen@deseretnews.com