Southwest to Drop Flights at Akron-Canton

Airline service at Akron-Canton Airport on Nov. 2 will shrink when Southwest Airlines ceases flying to four destinations favored by business travelers.

Southwest announced last week that it will end service from CAK to New York (LaGuardia), Boston, Washington, D.C. (Reagan National) and Denver.

The cuts are being offset somewhat by Southwest adding a flight to Las Vegas from CAK on Nov. 15 and an expansion of destinations by budget carrier Allegiant Air.

Allegiant is to begin serving Akron-Canton starting Thursday with service to St. Petersburg, Florida, as well as seasonal service to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Savannah/Hilton Head, Georgia.

None of the Allegiant flights are daily and the airline focuses on offering travel packages that include such things as hotel accommodations, rental cars and entertainment packages.

Allegiant has said it will announce in June what additional airports that it will serve from Akron-Canton.

Southwest will continue to fly from CAK to Atlanta, Orlando and Tampa as well as provide seasonal service to Fort Myers, Florida.

Akron-Canton will continue to have service to Washington that is provided by a US Airways affiliated carrier. US Airways is in the process of merging with American Airlines and the surviving carrier will operate under the American banner.

Southwest is currently the dominant airline at Akron-Canton, a legacy of the days when AirTran was the major carrier there.

Most of the routes that Southwest is dropping were started by AirTran, which merged with Southwest in 2011.

The Southwest flight from CAK to Denver is being shifted to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

It will be the second time in recent years that a carrier has shifted a flight to Denver from Akron-Canton to Cleveland Hopkins.

Frontier Airlines once flew from CAK to Denver, but pulled out of the Akron-Canton market in favor of flying from Cleveland to Denver.

In the wake of United Airlines curtailing its hub operations in Cleveland in 2014, Frontier has been expanding its service in Cleveland.

A Southwest spokesperson told the Akron Beacon Journal that curtailing flights at Akron-Canton was a simple matter of supply and demand.

“If there’s not enough demand to support the supply, then we have to look at other options out there,” said Dan Landson. He said that the four routes being dropped by Southwest were not performing well.

Akron-Canton Senior Vice President Kristie Van Auken acknowledged that some of the flights being eliminated by Southwest did better than others.

But Van Auken hailed the resumption of air service to Las Vegas, which she described as the largest unserved market from CAK at present and the most requested.

AirTran previously operated a non-stop flight between Akron-Canton and Las Vegas, but pulled out of the market in 2008 as fuel prices shot upward.

Landson said Southwest remains committed to serving Akron-Canton.

“We wouldn’t be adding flights if we didn’t think there was opportunity there,” he said. “While we’re moving away from some markets, we are bringing in a new market that we think will perform very well.”

Southwest started service from Akron-Canton to Washington last year in competition with US Airways and had heavily promoted it last November.

“We’ve worked closely with Southwest and still consider them an important partner,” Van Auken said. “We love it that they’re committed to our community and are still going to offer five nonstop destinations aboard big jets.”

She was referring to the 737 fleet that Southwest flies.

Aside from Washington, US Airways-affiliated carriers fly from Akron-Canton with regional jet equipment to Philadelphia and Charlotte, N.C.

Other carriers serving Akron-Canton include a United affiliate that flies to Chicago (O’Hare) and Delta Air Lines to Atlanta and Detroit.

Many of the Delta flights to Atlanta use MD80 and Airbus jetliners while all of the flights to Detroit and some to Atlanta are handled by affiliated carriers using regional jets.

Some of these airlines may increase their offerings at Akron-Canton to take up the slack left by the elimination of service by Southwest.

Henry Harteveldt, a co-founder of Atmosphere Research Group, told The Plain Dealer that the moves by Southwest at the Akron-Canton airport indicate that it views the market as more leisure oriented than business oriented.

He said the loss of service to Boston and New York from CAK might result in additional service from Cleveland Hopkins.

Harteveldt noted that JetBlue recently launched service between Cleveland and Boston and it might be interested in adding service between Cleveland and New York (Kennedy), where the airline has a strong presence.

Southwest’s de-emphasis of service at Akron-Canton was predicted by some observers at the time of the Southwest-AirTran merger.

“Southwest has shuttered many of the smaller AirTran markets,” said aviation consultant Robert Mann in an interview with The Plain Dealer.

At the same time that Southwest is scaling back operations in Akron-Canton, it will be adding flights to New York from Indianapolis, and flights from Austin, Texas, to Seattle/Tacoma and Boston.

It also will launch service from St. Louis and Kansas City to Santa Ana (Orange County), California.

Southwest will expand its international flight schedule with new service from Houston to Mexico and Costa Rica.

Van Auken noted that United has added a fourth round-trip flight to O’Hare and that airport officials continue to talk with airlines about increasing east-west service to Akron-Canton.

The airport has not fared well with the new westbound flights offered in recent years. AirTran launched and then ended service to Milwaukee. Southwest for a time served Chicago (Midway) but pulled out of that market.

Allegiant serves airports near Phoenix and Las Vegas and one or both of those may be among the new destinations that it will announce from Akron-Canton next month.

Even after the cutbacks Southwest will remain the largest airline at Akron-Canton.

Even though Southwest is moving one of its current CAK flights to Cleveland, Van Auken doesn’t believe that Southwest’s long-standing presence there led to the curtailment of service at Akron-Canton.

She noted that Southwest’s service from Cleveland does not overlap its service from Akron-Canton.

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