Pin on the map of Florida showing the location of Destin

The USA's newest airline hub is ... Destin, Fla.?

By Ben Mutzabaugh, USA TODAY

Leisure carrier Vision Airlines says it will operate a hub out of the Northwest Florida Regional Airport, raising the question of whether the Destin/Fort Walton Beach airport can succeed where airports serving places like Pittsburgh, Columbus (Ohio) and Raleigh/Durham could not.

Vision already flies to Destin/Fort Walton Beach from about two dozen destinations, but currently does not offer connections. That will change on June 1, a move Vision says will add "more than 100 new options for flights."

"When we launched our service in March, we felt it would be prudent to keep things simple which meant only allowing passengers to fly directly to a destination," Vision COO David Meers says in a release. "Now, by opening our entire system with connections, our customers will have many new destination options."

"For example," Meers adds, an Atlanta customer flying on Vision "could only travel to Louisville, Destin or Gulfport prior to this announcement. Now, the Atlanta passenger can travel to 14 different destinations including Fort Lauderdale, St. Petersburg/Tampa and Las Vegas."

Among the other new Vision routes opening up via connections in Destin/Fort Walton Beach: St. Louis-Fort Lauderdale; Savannah-Punta Gorda, Fla.; Las Vegas-Greenville/Spartanburg; and Shreveport-Orlando Sanford.

The move was welcomed by airports in Vision's route network.

"The growth of Vision Air through its Destin hub provides connectivity to more cities from a variety of destinations," Noah Lagos, director of St. Petersburg-Clearwater International, says to The Tampa Tribune.

With the move, Vision's pricing will now mirror that of other hub-focused airlines. The Tribune notes its search for fares from St. Petersburg returned a $39 one-way fare to Destin, a $129 one-way fare to connect to Asheville, N.C., and a $199 one-way fare to connect to Las Vegas. (Taxes and fees not included).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says "Vision hopes to attract vacationers with connections through Destin."

"Our model wasn't to be a business traveler airline as much as a leisure traveler airline," Meers tells the Journal-Constitution.

He says that by opening up Destin routes to connections, "now we have 13 different ways to fill a flight, versus just one way to fill a flight."

1592513 Tracyhoftlouthain 1

Published by Tracy Louthain
Wednesday, May 18, 2011