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Allegiant opens Ohio-Hilton Head travel line with flights to Savannah airport

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Allegiant Air will add direct flights to three Ohio cities this summer from the Savannah-Hilton Head Island International Airport, the company announced Tuesday.

The new service will add flights two days each week to Akron, Cincinnati and Columbus, with introductory airfares as low as $57, according to Allegiant spokeswoman Laura Billiter.

The flights begin in May and June and will be available through August, Billiter said.

"We know Savannah-Hilton Head is a popular vacation destination, and Ohio residents in particular have been requesting we start service here for quite some time," said Jude Bricker, Allegiant Travel Co. senior vice president of planning.

The service to Savannah will be part of 22 new direct seasonal routes for the carrier across the country, including five new flights to Myrtle Beach, according to the company's announcement. Allegiant and Savannah airport officials suggested last month they would add the flights when Allegiant announced it was expanding its Myrtle Beach service.

There are no existing direct flights to Savannah-Hilton Head from any commercial airports in Ohio. Allegiant Air briefly offered nonstop flights between Savannah and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., but the airline ended the service in 2011 because of a lack of demand.

The new service fills that gap by offering 495 seats each week to and from Hilton Head's largest market for incoming visitors, more than three quarters of whom typically drive to the island, said Bill Miles, director of the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce.

"From a quality-of-life standpoint to an economic-development benefit, and certainly looking at the overall impact it can have on tourism, it's a win-win," Miles said.

Miles and other airport officials helped engineer the deal to bring Allegiant to Savannah with leaders from the city's chamber and economic development group, which have all pitched in marketing plans to help promote the flights here and in Ohio, Miles and airport spokeswoman Lisa Lynah said.

Leaders crafted a similar deal to help woo JetBlue to the airport last year.

JetBlue now offers discount flights directly to New York City and Boston, and that has helped drive down ticket prices across the board in Savannah, Lynah said. The addition of Allegiant should help continue that trend, she added.

Although no other carrier announcements are imminent, Miles said he and other local leaders are "actively pursuing" flights to other top markets for the Lowcountry and Savannah area. New routes could include tapping into the Canadian market, the upper Northeast or more direct flights within the Southeast, he added.

"I don't have any idea right now whether (an addition) might be in the third quarter or fourth quarter of 2015, but we're certainly in the game," Miles said.

To hype the new Allegiant routes, the company and its local partners are introducing the flights with up to $500 worth of vacation packages at www.allegiant.com/SAVE500.

Follow reporter Zach Murdock on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach and on Facebook at facebook.com/IPBGZach.

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