Allegiant Air has signed an agreement with Peppermill Casinos Inc. to fly passengers into Wendover, Utah, to visit the Peppermill hotels and casinos on the Nevada side of the border community.

ELKO — Allegiant Air will fly visitors to the Peppermill hotels and casinos in West Wendover starting in February, and the company plans to base a 150-seat jetliner at the Wendover, Utah, airport by March 1.

Allegiant will replace Xtra Airways, formerly based in Elko and now operating out of Boise, Idaho.

“The start date is Feb. 16. Xtra, Allegiant and us all agreed to that date. We’ve had a great relationship with Xtra, but we both feel at this point we are going in different directions,” said John Spillman, marketing director for the Peppermill properties in West Wendover.

He said Xtra is focused more on charter flights for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Spillman said Allegiant already flies to about 60 percent of the towns where the Peppermill offers package deals to visitors coming to West Wendover to stay in the Peppermill Hotel & Casino, Rainbow Hotel Casino or Montego Bay Casino Resort.

“We are pleased to establish a new partnership with the Peppermill Resorts, Las Vegas-based Allegiant Travel Co.’s president, Andrew Levy, said in an announcement last month on the agreement. 

“We are confident Peppermill customers will be pleased with the level of service and reliability our company will provide,” he said.

Allegiant Air is a subsidiary of Allegiant Travel Co.

The agreement between Peppermill and Allegiant is a three-year, fixed-fee pact, and Allegiant reported it expects to generate more than $20 million in revenue over those three years.

Along with basing an MD-80 jet at Wendover for the charter flights, the airline will have more than 20 employees based in Wendover.

The Peppermill is in its sixth year of the flight program to bring people to the Elko County city on the border with Utah.

Spillman said the flights into Wendover bring roughly 145 people each day, and their visits are important to the economy of West Wendover.

“We’re very aggressive here. The one thing we have is tourism. We have to make the most of it, even when the economy is the way it is and people aren’t traveling as much,” he said. “We stepped up marketing and fought hard to keep the flight program healthy.”

Spillman said West Wendover casinos aren’t hit as hard as those in Reno and Las Vegas, “but we’re down from our peak.” The casinos draw from Salt Lake City, and the visitors from there are financially conservative when the economy is down, he said.

“People are much more thrifty today. That’s the nature of the business today. We have to make it a great value,” Spillman said.

According to Nevada State Gaming Control Board figures, the win amount for West Wendover casinos from Aug. 1, 2009, to July 31 of this year totaled $165,049,000, down 6.5 percent. July winnings totaled $14 million, down 0.51 percent.

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