Allegiant Retires Their Elderly MD-80 Fleet, Goes Totally Airbus

Photo from Flikr by Bill Abbott.

After a busy holiday travel season Allegiant Air is ready to retire the last of its McDonnel Douglas MD-80 fleet.  The last Allegiant MD-80 took off from Fresno, California to Las Vegas on the evening of November 28th.  It landed at Las Vegas with a flyover of Las Vegas and a water cannon salute after landing. The Allegiant MD-80 fleet has connected small cities with world-class destinations around the United States for 16 years, but the low-cost carrier is ready to simplify and move forward with their fleet of Airbus 319s and A320s. The final flight was scheduled for November 28th to fly to Fresno and then back to their main hub in Las Vegas; a route they’ve done since Allegiant’s beginning in 1999.

Agarre16 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

Allegiant Air’s Opportunistic Background
With the domestic proliferation of the Airbus A320 in the early 2000s, we started to see major airlines announce retirement plans for their McDonnell Douglas aircraft and begin selling their used MD-80s.

Allegiant used this time to purchase the MD-80 at a better price and continued to operate short to medium distance nonstop routes across the United States at a lower cost for their customers. In 2002 Allegiant was operating a fleet primarily of MD-80s bringing passengers from smaller cities to world-class leisure destinations like Las Vegas, Myrtle Beach, and Southern California. Drew Wells, Vice-President of Revenue and Planning for Allegiant, said that they’ve done the same with the Airbus A320 by staying, “true to our core values and being opportunistic and bringing in the right fleet and aircraft when the right price point is there.” In 2012 Allegiant put into action a 10 year transition plan. Now Allegiant is ready to retire it’s fleet of MD-80s in favor of the Airbus A320, ahead of schedule.

Photo by redlegsfan21. Post on Flickr.

Allegiant Transitioned to the A320 Faster than Expected
The successful purchase of several used Airbuses accelerated the retirement of Allegiant’s MD-80s to this year instead of their planned retirement in 2019. This caused some challenges for the carrier:
– Technicians were taking on the new aircraft at a rate never before seen by Allegiant Air. Great deals and a surprising order for brand new A320s from Airbus expedited the process. Allegiant’s crews took about 35-40 days to process each new aircraft.
– Ensuring they have enough pilots trained and ready to safely man their new fleet has also put them under pressure. They anticipate being fully manned by March of 2019.
– There was also a delay in receiving some of their new aircraft from Airbus which forced Allegiant to operate with 6 fewer aircraft.

How Does the A320 Change Allegiant Air?
As technology progresses, oil and fuel costs fluctuate, and the economy changes, Allegiant is always looking to maintain a cost effective means for air travel. The new Airbus fleet is significantly younger than the MD-80 and Allegiant is already seeing improvement in the fleet’s reliability, network possibilities, and revenue.

The MD-80 was designed and brought into production in the 1970s and today the approach to maintaining these aircraft is still very much prognostic. Upgrading to the Airbus A320 comes with a modern maintenance platform, Skywise, that will ensure a more proactive approach to the maintenance of the aircraft. They’ll be able to better anticipate the maintenance needs of the aircraft, which means less downtime and more airtime for the fleet.

The A320 aircraft family is also more fuel efficient by about 30% and it has a better maximum takeoff weight than the MD-80. This opens the doors for new routes for Allegiant and a little more room for passengers. Now only Delta and American fly the MD-80 aircraft.  American is scheduled to retire their MD-80 fleet in 2019 with Delta following by 2020.

Allegiant Air’s New Routes
This November Allegiant Air launched four new routes exclusively operated by their fleet. You can now fly between Phoenix, Mesa, and Saint George, Utah. They’ve also connected Punta Gorda with Omaha, Syracuse, and Appleton.

Streamlining the Fleet
Operating and maintaining two different aircraft types has been a logistical and financial headache. After a year of hard work bringing in the A320s and retiring the MD-80s Allegiant is looking forward to an updated, efficient and simplified fleet to bring them into 2019 and beyond.

Editors note:  The original article incorrectly stated that the final flight was between Flint, Michigan and Las Vegas.  We corrected the error.