The discount carrier adds eight cities to SRQ and five to PGD in Charlotte County.

SARASOTA — Allegiant is adding eight new cities this fall to its roster of flights at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.

The new nonstop service to McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville, Tennessee, launches Nov. 21 and will be year-round, the discount airline announced Tuesday. The others — to St. Louis, Des Moines and Louisville; Fort Wayne and South Bend, Indiana; Rockford, Illinois and Flint, Michigan — will be seasonal.

Service will begin on Nov. 15 to MidAmerica St. Louis Airport, and on Nov. 23 to Des Moines International Airport and Chicago Rockford International Airport.

On Nov. 24, Allegiant will start flying to Bishop International Airport in Flint, Michigan, and Fort Wayne International Airport in Indiana.

And on Nov. 25, flights will begin to Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport and South Bend International Airport.

The eight additional flights bring Allegiant's total out of the airport to 20. Allegiant has by far the most routes of any airline operating at Sarasota-Bradenton.

Allegiant also is adding five seasonal routes to Punta Gorda Airport.

The airline started service at SRQ in in April 2018 with three destinations and announced an additional nine in November of last year.

The new flights are expected to bring nearly 54,000 new passengers a year through the airport. Introductory one-way fares will be as low as $59, the airline said.

Rick Piccolo, president and CEO of Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, said that the new service brings some old routes back to SRQ.

"You have the St. Louis, Belleville, and Chicago/Rockford type flights that were big markets for us in the old days. When I first came here, (Trans World Airlines) was flying four jets to St. Louis every day. We're getting some markets back," Piccolo said. "When you look at it, it's a lot of the Midwest, which is a big traditional market for us."

All flights will operate twice weekly.

Bud Hafer, manager of airport affairs for Allegiant, said that the new flights will build on the success Allegiant has already had at Sarasota-Bradenton.

Allegiant has flown 228,000 passengers in its 15 months at SRQ and had an economic impact of $138 million on the community over that time, Piccolo said. All of SRQ's new service, including Allegiant, Frontier Airlines and new routes from larger carriers such as American Airlines and United Airlines, has led to $309 million in economic impact, he said.

"Everything we started flying here has been really successful, so we wanted to continue with that. There were many other markets that we already serve, just not to Sarasota, so we wanted to expand that out, continue to grow and see how these ones do," Hafer said.

Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County, said that she was very happy to see Knoxville become a year-round route. In Visit Sarasota's plan for its next fiscal year starting Oct. 1, Knoxville is mentioned as a city to focus on, she said.

For fiscal year 2018, which ended on Sept. 30 of last year, Knoxville was No. 12 on a list of highest average visitor spending per trip, behind entire countries like Canada, the United Kingdom and Germany and major U.S. cities like New York. Travelers from Knoxville spent $1,970 per trip in Sarasota County, Haley said.

Since Allegiant focuses on service to secondary markets — like Rockford instead of the one of the main urban Chicago airports — Visit Sarasota County can get more for its money when it comes to advertising.

"I've heard (Visit Sarasota Vice President) Erin Duggan say this 10 times this week, and I don't think it's an original quote, but she said, 'You don't want to be an inch deep and a mile wide with your advertising.' We'd rather go with a robust, multi-layered campaign, where we can really show we've moved the needle," she said. "At the same time, that same amount of money might get you one ad, one time in the New York Times."  

At Punta Gorda, service begins Nov. 13 to Elmira Corning Regional Airport in New York. The next day Allegiant will start flying to Charleston International Airport in South Carolina and Norfolk International Airport in Virginia.

And on Nov. 15 the airline will add service to Memphis International Airport and Sioux Falls Regional Airport.

Hafer said that Southwest Florida as a whole continues to be an in-demand market for Allegiant.

"We're really strong in the Midwest; that's where everyone in the Midwest wants to come — Southwest Florida. We came to Sarasota a little bit later than other places in Southwest Florida, but we're finding it does really well," he said.

All the Punta Gorda flights will operate twice a week. Officials say they will increase airport traffic by 29,000 passengers a year.

"The addition of five new Allegiant destinations is outstanding news for our local community and economy,” said Pamella Seay, chair of the Charlotte County Airport Authority.