Allegiant Air announced plans this week to build a $600 million mixed-use beachfront resort in Port Charlotte, FL, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The budget airline is the only carrier providing service in and out of Punta Gorda Airport, located roughly six miles from Port Charlotte.
The Sunseeker Resort will feature a hotel, condos, a marina, restaurants and retail on 20 acres along the Peace River, according to the Herald-Tribune. It could pump as much as $1 billion into the local economy over the next decade.
Allegiant officials said the resort will be positioned similar to the airline's service footprint, targeting families from small Midwestern cities with underserved airports.
Airlines' success in the hotel industry has been hit-and-miss. While so-far successful ventures like Virgin and JetBlue are operating their own hotels, most recent U.S. airline investment has gone into expanding terminals.
Delta Air Lines, for one, is investing $3.4 billion in a new $4 billion terminal at New York City's LaGuardia Airport. Meanwhile, construction is underway on a $2.4 billion terminal overhaul at Newark Liberty International Airport, in New Jersey. And Delta and American Airlines are investing heavily to upgrade their terminals at the Los Angeles International Airport.
Many terminals at U.S. airports are decades old, making modernization and expansion necessary to keep pace with the increased volume of people traveling by plane. To pay for such projects, some airlines are turning to bonds or private financing if local officials take on the project as a public-private partnership.
For infrastructure-only projects, like runway repairs and ancillary roads, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) offers Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants. Last week, the FAA announced the ninth round of AIP funding, bringing grants this year to a total of $2.3 billion for 1,210 airports.
While those grants can certainly make a dent in major project costs, U.S. airports still face a $100 billion deficit for infrastructure improvements. To help offset that backlog, airport advocates are lobbying lawmakers to raise the longstanding $4.50 per-ticket cap on passenger facility fees. Others have suggested a phased-in AIP budget increase, in addition to P3s.