The Charlottesville Albemarle Airport is now home to a new low-cost airline. Allegiant Airlines joins Delta, US Airways, United, and American as one of the flight options to and from CHO.
Charlottesville is one of nine cities to get new flights from Allegiant, which is offering nonstop flights to and from Charlottesville and Orlando-Sanford International Airport on Thursdays and Sundays.
"This is our first low-cost carrier that's coming into our market and they're serving us for the Orlando-Sanford market which has basically been one of our most under-served markets and the one nonstop that's been the most requested," said CHO Director Melinda Crawford.
"It's always so exciting to come into a city like Charlottesville and offer a nonstop flight to a fun vacation destination that hasn't been there before so everyone's been very excited," said Jessica Wheeler, a public relations manager for Allegiant.
With the new service, Allegiant is also bringing a big jet. Before now, the biggest plane at CHO had 70 seats. Allegiant's McDonnell Douglas MD-80 plane has 166 seats.
Tickets start at $100 for the CHO-Olando flights. NBC29 did some digging and found the $100 fair is closer to $192 after adding fees for baggage and choosing your seat.
Still, the airline said it's a bargain- and many passengers seem to agree.
"It's going to be a great deal no matter what services you want. One of the best things about Allegiant is that you only pay for the things you need, so each individual traveler can customize a travel experience and an itinerary cost that fits their needs and their budget,' Wheeler said.
"The airline was a lot better, it had better pricing options so it was easier," said Amanda Jackson, who usually flies into Dulles to visit her mom. "It was awesome, it was really enjoyable, smooth ride," she said.
Jackson and an estimated 100 other passengers arrived on the first Allegiant flight from Orlando to Charlottesville, which touched down at CHO Thursday around 9 a.m.
The airport welcomed the airline and its first flyers with a party. There was a water cannon salute over the plane just as it landed, followed by applause for passengers as well as free giveaways and fresh Carpe Donuts.
Crawford said Allegiant would not have been able to come to CHO had it not been for the more-than $40 million runway expansion project.
"It's been a very exciting day. This day would not have been possible if we had not had that runway extension,” said Crawford.
"This is the moment I've waited five years for," said CHO spokesperson Jason Burch.
"Just in time for the holidays. Everyone can get away. Once it gets cold outside it will still be sunny and warm in Orlando," added Wheeler.