Allegiant Airlines

Allegiant Airlines, September 11th, 2020

Years ago I would fly from Sonoma County to Las Vegas for the yearly Father/Son Golf Tourney. Getting from Healdsburg in Sonoma County to Las Vegas was a challenge.

To drive would take 14 hours across mountains and deserts. Everyone I talked to who had done the drive said,”It’s a long drive, man. And you get out there in the desert and the road is straight and flat. Next thing you know you are going 100 mph and a cop is pulling you over for speeding. The cop ticket costs more than a plane ticket.”

So I always flew to Las Vegas. Most of the time I’d take a bus for 2.5 hours to the San Francisco Airport (SFO) and fly from there.

But for a few years there was a direct flight from the Santa Rosa Airport (20 minutes from our house) to Las Vegas run by Horizon Air, then bought out by Alaskan Air. But they quit the flight for some reason though the planes were always full.

Along comes Allegiant Airlines flying just Thursday and Sunday. But it was cheap. It was an MD-80 jet. And it was nonstop.

The hours of the flights sucked. The flight to Las Vegas from Santa Rosa Airport were late in the day and the flight back on Sunday left the McCarran Airport in LV at 6 AM. Yeah, 6 AM! And that was leaving the gate.

I remember getting onboard the ancient MD-80 at the Santa Rosa Airport and noticing that there weren’t many passengers. I did notice the pilot.

She was skinny, blonde, austere, businesslike as she walked through the terminal. The pilot was very assured of herself. She was Teutonic.

We all got onboard and the pilot made some kind comments about our trip to Las Vegas and off we went at record speed and altitude for such a plane imo.

The plane was only 1/3 full and falling apart. Allegiant is a cut rate airline. The carpet on the bulkhead was peeling away. The air hostesses were mostly standing in the galley laughing and drinking.

But we made it to Las Vegas no problem.

Three days later at pre dawn hours my driver picked me up at the Four Seasons at 4 AM to take me to the airport to catch my ride back home on Allegiant. ( The driver was not happy about this early morning pickup, but he loves me. I think. (joke)).

I get to the airport and go to the gate and there again is the skinny blonde Teutonic pilot. She is just as energetic and self assured as usual with her coffee cup in hand and her carry on bag with her on rollers. She wears her blue airline business pant suit with authority and confidence.

I get on the plane and sure enough. The bulkhead’s carpet is still peeling away. It’s the same plane. Across the aisle from me at 6 AM are two couples about 57 years old or so. They are drinking double bourbons and vodkas.

It’s 6 AM!

We take off and again, the air hostesses stay in the galley drinking and laughing. I have to move their drink cart to get to the lavatory behind the cockpit. The cart is blocking the aisle.

When we get to the Santa Rosa Airport (photo attached) we are approaching it from the south (bottom of photo). The marine layer/fog has moved in during the night and since it is only 7:10 AM in April, the sun has not burned off the fog yet.

Our intrepid Aryan pilot makes three passes at the runway, but can’t see it when she reaches the critical go/no go height of 500 feet.

On the fourth try she lands the plane anyway. Our pilot had made this landing many times before and knew where the runway was. She basically told the air traffic controller that she was landing. I think our pilot had an agenda and a boyfriend, or girlfriend waiting in Santa Rosa.

I was just glad to find the ground and get home.

It amazes me that this fly by the cheap airline can pay for the naming rights to the new stadium in Las Vegas.

America and Las Vegas are great.

Tim McGraw

2 thoughts on “Allegiant Airlines

  1. MD 80’s yep quite some history with them here at MKE Midwest Express would buy these planes at 50% life left and refurbish them here at Billy Mitchell field. I had walk through one that had no engines no leading edge on the wings no interior and not much of a floor. Kimberly Clark the Kleenex facial tissue people started that airline.
    I had a customer/friend that flew for them , he was promoted to the left side soon enough. He told me he would fly the brewer’s baseball team around, often empty flights returning to Milwaukee. When empty, the 80’s could climb out like crazy. He told me that when flying empty the plane didn’t like weather and was a kite.
    I recall on a hot day a Midwest Express MD took off and blew a compressor spacer ring, still over the airport… The cockpit error should have pushed both throttles to 100% but instead throttled back the wrong engine, bubye everybody. That was really a sad day. I flew them many times, really a competitor to Delta when going to Georgia.
    Two across seating with leather seats and fresh baked chocolate chip cookies as your first snack… No one would refuse them.
    I always had a lot of respect for the MD series, I think the pilots like them too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Craig, Thanks for the great story about the MD-80. I’ve heard great things about the old Midwest Express airline. Of course they were subsumed by a bigger airline and the good service disappeared. Thanks for all the background on the MD-80’s. I don’t know much about them. So sad about the plane crash at Milwaukee.


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