More Airlines to Add John Wayne Airport Stops in 2021

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Main News Photo

(Orange County Register)

If the coming of Spirit Airlines later this month wasn’t enough, travelers looking for budget flights into and out of Orange County should have even more options in 2021.

Allegiant Air is expected to be the next to arrive, with service to start in February, followed by Sun Country Airlines in April, and in May, Air Canada should begin international service, according to a report from airport Director Barry Rondinella.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on John Wayne Airport’s 2021 seat allotments on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Why so many newcomers in such a short span of time? The pandemic, with the damper it put on business and leisure travel, is at least partly to blame.

A legal settlement caps the annual number of passengers taking off or landing at John Wayne Airport, so every autumn county officials allot blocks of seats for the following year to each of the airlines that serve the airport. A drop in demand already opened a slot for Spirit, and airport spokeswoman Deanne Thompson said there was still capacity left over after other existing carriers made their 2021 requests.

John Wayne officials went down the list of airlines hoping to get into Orange County, and the three new ones were the first that were “both willing and able to get started” before mid-year, Thompson said.

The new carriers won’t have dedicated gates and aren’t expected to do major volume. Air Canada and Sun Country were each allotted fewer than 100,000 seats for the year and Allegiant got just under 350,000 – that’s as compared with more than 5 million seats for Southwest Airlines and 2 million each for American and United, according to information in Rondinella’s report to the supervisors.

Travelers have been slowly returning to the airport since the pandemic caused a sharp drop in travel in March. September statistics showed passenger numbers are still down more than 60% for the year compared with 2019. Thompson said if the airport in December sees half the volume of passengers it had the same month in 2019, “that would be a real improvement.”

Category: Community News, Economic News, Travel and Tourism, Destination Irvine