Concord Regional Airport wants to land an airline with regular flights soon.
It is the busiest airport in the state without regular passenger flights like Charlotte-Douglas International. Concord handles a lot of private flights, especially for NASCAR. For the first time, it may be close to having what insiders call "scheduled air service."
Allegiant Air is interested. It already flies in and out of Greensboro, Asheville and Greenville-Spartanburg.
"Takes me 10 minutes to get here (to Concord Regional Airport). So that would be great," said Concord resident Susan Wilson.
Allegiant caters to tourists. That's why Concord says it would have flights only on certain days and only to a few destinations, probably Orlando first, then Miami or Tampa, and then, eventually, Las Vegas.
Michael Lowrey, an aviation expert for the John Locke Foundation, says it could work: "It would increase competition out of this region to certain vacation markets in Florida. Allegiant doesn't really work for business travelers."
But Allegiant says a lot hinges on how well the Concord airport can market the new service. The airport is applying for a $250,000 federal grant. An Allegiant executive sent the federal government a letter supporting Concord, saying, "While I cannot guarantee Allegiant Air would begin service [to Concord], we have very serious interest in this market."
In their grant application, Concord leaders said the new flights would save travelers money and give them an option outside of Charlotte-Douglas. Mayor Scott Padgett said, "This is a service that a lot of people can take advantage of at a very convenient location."
They say Concord has a higher median income than Charlotte, that 30 percent of Charlotte's economy is closer to Concord than to Charlotte-Douglas, and that Charlotte flights cost 29 percent more than they did four years ago. So they think this grant and Allegiant could serve passengers who may not fly otherwise.
The airport hopes to get the grant in the next month or two and says it could start service by the end of the year.