Budget carrier Allegiant says it won’t begin commercial flights out of the Northern Colorado Regional Airport next month as planned.
After a long absence in the region, the company announced this summer it would again start flying passengers from Loveland to Las Vegas and Phoenix. The move was a big boon to the regional airport, which has been trying to keep up with Northern Colorado’s rapid growth and transportation demands.
But in a statement issued Monday, the airline said it’s cancelling that plan for one reason: the airport has failed to get a new air traffic control tower up and running in time.
“Having an air traffic control tower on property, staffed with FAA-certified controllers, was essential to our decision to schedule service at Fort Collins,” Tyler Hollingsworth, Allegiant's vice president of safety and security, said in the statement. “We were deeply frustrated to learn that promise would not be fulfilled, leaving us with no responsible choice but to cancel service at this time.”
The company said customers who have already bought tickets will get full refunds.
The airport has touted its new remote air traffic control tower project as the key to becoming a commercial hub for travelers from Fort Collins, Greeley and Loveland who don’t want to go to Denver International Airport.
The technology uses radar, cameras and ground-based sensors at the airport that can be monitored by air traffic controllers in remote locations.
Jason Licon, director of the Northern Colorado Regional Airport, said he believes the tower will be up and running near the end of January, following a delayed regulatory review.
“The FAA is working to ensure that they create a safe environment for future service,” Licon said. “This is taking more time than they anticipated, but they remain a solid partner in this innovation.”
The delay means there will continue to be no commercial air service operating out of the airport.
Licon added that he believes Allegiant will reconsider offering commercial service to Northern Colorado once the tower is up and running.
“We’re optimistic,” he said. “This is a bump in the road.”
Allegiant confirmed to KUNC it would also reconsider offering service once the tower is completed.
Local officials also expressed frustration with Allegiant’s decision to cancel service.
“We have to look at this as a cost of innovation,” Leah Johnson, a Loveland City Council member said in a statement. “The reality is that this airport is the first in the nation with the Remote Tower Project. There are hiccups and challenges and that’s what we are facing.”
Wade Troxell, Airport Commission Chair and mayor of Fort Collins, said in a statement that he believed having the new technology would pay off in the long run.
“We want to move our community forward in seeking interest from commercial carriers,” Troxell said. “We have a readiness to compete. The remote tower will be in place, and that is the differentiator.”