Posts Tagged ‘airline service’

Hopkins Renovates Customs Review Area

February 19, 2018

The international arrivals area at Cleveland Hopkins Airport has been renovated in advance of the inauguration in May of new flights to Reykjavik, Iceland.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspection area is located at the end of Concourse A, which Wow Air and Icelandair will use for their flights.

Passengers will go through customs in the concourse rather than have to board buses to be transported to the customs inspection area that had been located near baggage claim.

The Transportation Security Administration has installed screening machines inside the customs area, allowing international passengers to pass through security before exiting through Concourse A.

In 2017, Hopkins handled 48,000 international passengers, who arrived on nonstop flights from Cancun, Mexico; the Dominican Republic; and Jamaica, as well as charter flights originating outside of the United States.

Passengers coming from Canada typically go through customs in Canada.

In the meantime, Hopkins Airport Director Robert Kennedy said Cleveland may soon land a third flight to Europe.

He said the city is on the short list for a new route to mainland Europe.

Kennedy would not name the carrier but said airport officials have had numerous conversations with that airline’s management about starting a route to Cleveland.

Hopkins has not had service to Europe since Continental Airlines dropped a flight to London Heathrow Airport in 2009.

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Trump Budget Also Targets Air Service, Fees

February 15, 2018

Amtrak is not the only form of transportation with a target on its back in the Trump administration’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2019.

In the same way that the budget seeks to slash funding for Amtrak, particularly its long-distance trains, the administration wants to cut funding for essential air service to small airports.

The budget proposed cutting expenditures for the EAS program from $150 million to $93 million.

The budget would also raise fees related to transportation security, and customs and immigration fees paid by airline and cruise passengers. The federal air traffic control system would be privatized.

Amtrak funding would fall from $1.5 billion to $738 million. The budget proposal said Amtrak’s long-distance trains suffer from poor on-time performance and carry just 4.7 million of Amtrak’s nearly 32 million annual passengers. It also said the long-distance trains lose more than $500 million annually.

These proposals are not new. Most of them were in the FY 2018 budget, but Congress did not heed them.

The Trump administration budget proposal calls for appropriating $15.6 billion for the Department of Transportation, a cut of 19 percent from what Congress gave it in FY 2017.

The most recent data available from the U.S. Department of Transportation, dated October 2016, shows that the federal government funded commercial airline flights to 120 communities in the continental U.S and Hawaii.

The program, which began in 1978, also makes 237 Alaskan communities eligible for funding.

The rational for the EAS program was to enable remote towns to remain in the national air traffic network following airline deregulation, which resulted in scores of airports losing commercial service.

“However, today many EAS flights are not full and have high per-passenger subsidy costs. Several EAS eligible communities are relatively close to major airports,” the budget proposal says.

The recommendations were part of the $4.4 trillion budget proposal the administration sent to Congress on Monday.

Among the travel security-related fees that the administration wants to increase are the 9/11-passenger security fee that is assessed on airfare from the current $5.60 per one-way trip to $6.60 in 2019 and then to $8.25 beginning in 2020.

Although the 9/11 fee is supposed to fund Transportation Security Administration airport operations, Congress has sent about a third of it to items unrelated to security.

The administration said raising the fee would result in the traveling public paying for the full cost of aviation security.

The custom inspection fee would increase from $5.65 to $7.75. This fee is assessed on air and cruise ticket prices for people arriving in the United States.

The immigration fee, which is also assessed on tickets held by air and cruise passengers entering the U.S., would go from $7 to $9.

The proposal includes ending an exemption on that fee for passengers arriving via sea from Canada and Mexico.

The budget proposal said that the customs fee and immigration fee were last increased in 2007 and 2001, respectively.

Air traffic control is now overseen by the Federal Aviation Administration, but the Trump administration wants to shift it to an independent private organization.

Doing this, the administration believes, would speed implementation of a satellite-based NextGen system while removing air traffic control from contentious appropriation debates in Congress.

Critics have said doing this would reduce public accountability and harm the interests of private aviation.

An ATC privatization bill has twice made it out of the House Transportation Committee, but has failed to pass either the full House or the Senate due to bi-partisan opposition.

CAK Passenger Traffic Fell 9% in 2017

January 25, 2018

The trend of falling passenger traffic continued at Akron-Canton Airport last year, dropping 9 percent.

The airport reported serving 1.27 million passengers, a decline from the 1.4 million who used the airport in 2016.

Figures provided by the airport show that traffic has been falling since 2012 when a record 1.84 million passengers used the facility located between Akron and Canton. The 2017 passenger figure was the lowest recorded since 2008.

Much of the decline has been attributed to lost flights from Southwest Airlines and Allegiant Air, both of which has ceased flying to Akron-Canton last year.

Although Southwest ended its last flight to CAK last June, it had reduced the number of flights and destinations served from the airport over the past two years.

Most of those flights Southwest had inherited from AirTran Airways, which at one time accounted for more than half the passenger traffic at CAK.

Allegiant pulled out of Akron-Canton last February, shifting its flights to Cleveland Hopkins Airport.

Southwest in the past year has been increasing the number of flights and destinations that it offers from Hopkins.

Officials believe that airline growth at Hopkins has siphoned passenger traffic from Akron-Canton, which continues to be served by Delta Air Lines and its regional brand Delta Connection, Spirit Airlines, and regional airlines operating under the United Express and American Eagle brands of United Airlines and American Airlines respectively.

United Express to Link Akron-Canton and Houston in June; Airport CEO to Retire Late This Year

January 16, 2018

United Express will launch nonstop service from the Akron-Canton Airport to Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport starting on June 8.

Bush Intercontinental is a major hub for United Airlines and serves as the carrier’s gateway to Latin American.

The regional jet flights to Houston will be operated by ExpressJet under the United Express brand name, departing from Akron-Canton at 7 a.m. and returning at 10:12 p.m.

In an unrelated development, the airport’s CEO has announced he will retire at the end of 2018 after serving in that position for the past decade.

Rick McQueen began working at the airport in 1982 as an accountant. During his time leading the airport, it has implemented an $118 million capital improvement plan that includes a runway extension, new parking and substantial terminal improvements.

“Nothing at the airport looks the same as the day I began working here,” McQueen said in a statement.

McQueen has seen the airport grow and then contract by losing service from such carriers as Southwest Airlines, Frontier Airlines and Allegiant Air.

Passenger traffic of late has been trending downward from a high of 1.84 million in 2012 to 1.36 in 2016.

McQueen continues to be optimistic that passenger traffic will begin growing again, saying that it tends to be cyclical.

“We’ve had our ups, we’ve had our downs. We think we’ll turn the corner and grow again,” McQueen said.

Akron-Canton has four airlines flying to 14 destinations, although at present none of those are located west of the Mississippi River.

Last Allegiant Youngstown Flight Leaves Today

January 4, 2018

Allegiant Air will fly from the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport today for the final time.

The low fare carrier has cited low boardings for ending flights from Youngstown.

The last Allegiant flight is expected to lift off at 5:37 p.m. en route to Clearwater International Airport in Florida.

Allegiant, which began flying into the Youngstown-Warren airport in 2006, is the last carrier to provide scheduled service there.

However, airport officials have said they are talking with other potential carriers about providing flights.

Officials of one of those carriers, Southern Airways Express, attended a public forum last month to gauge interest in providing service to Baltimore-Washington International Airport and Detroit’s Coleman A. Young International Airport.

Dan Dickten, director of aviation for the Western Reserve Port Authority, which runs the Youngstown airport, has also talked with SkyWest Airlines and Sun Country Airlines about serving Youngstown.

Sun Country has provided charter flights from Youngstown and Dickten said there’s a possibility it may begin low-cost commercial flights similar to those of Allegiant or Spirit Airlines.

“Things like this just don’t happen overnight,” Dickten said. “There will be a break in service before we are able to get a new service in here.”

In the meantime, the airport authority has sued Aerodynamics Inc., which briefly operated scheduled flights between Youngstown and Chicago in summer 2016 before abruptly terminating the service.

ADI, which operated the service under the brand name Great Lakes JetExpress, has countersued the airport.

The trial in those cases is expected to begin next August at the U.S. Courthouse in Youngstown.

Youngstown-Warren Airport Optimistic About Landing New Air Service to Replace Allegiant

December 16, 2017

Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport officials are talking with four airlines about serving the airport, which is poised to lose commercial service next month.

Allegiant plans to end its flights to Youngstown on Jan. 4. Among the carriers that airport officials are meeting with are Sun Country, SkyWest and Southern Airways Express.

Southern has proposed launching routes from Youngstown to Detroit and Baltimore using nine-seat Cessna Caravans 208B turboprop planes.

A public hearing was held earlier this month at the airport to gauge the public interest in the service that Southern has suggested providing.

Founded four years ago, Southern provides service between Pittsburgh and smaller communities in western Pennsylvania, including Altoona and Franklin.

The airline’s chief commercial officer, Mark Cestari, said the carrier is working to form interline agreements with major airlines to boost the attractiveness of its potential service from Youngstown.

Dan Dickten, director of aviation for the Western Reserve Port Authority, which runs the airport, plans to meet with SkyWest Airlines in January to discuss service to Chicago.

SkyWest operates flights under the United Express brand, which feeds passengers to United Airlines.

Youngstown had flights to Chicago O’Hare International Airport for a short time in summer 2016 that were provided by Aerodynamics Inc.

Airport officials blamed a lack of an interline agreement to access United’s baggage handling and ticketing network for the failure of ADI’s service.

Dickten said SkyWest wants a revenue guarantee for the flights. The port authority has $500,000 that it could pay to SkyWest.

Dickten has also talked with Sun Country. “They are another ultra-low-cost carrier” that flies many of the same routes as Allegiant, he said.

Youngstown airport officials have also contacted Ultimate Jetcharters, which is based in North Canton and flies 30-passenger aircraft.

Ultimate provides scheduled service from Cleveland’s Burke Lakefront Airport to Cincinnati and Atlanta.

Dickten said discussions with various carriers have turned serious and he expects to see scheduled air service within the next six to eight months from Youngstown.

Allegiant currently offers flights twice weekly from Youngstown to Orlando Sanford and St.  Petersburg/Clearwater airports in Florida. It has cited low demand as its reasons for leaving the Youngstown market.

Akron-Canton, Youngstown Struggle to Attract Air Service in Competition with Cleveland, Pittsburgh

October 14, 2017

 

An Allegiant Air Airbus 320 lands at Cleveland Hopkins Airport last April. By early next year, Allegiant will have foresaken the Akron-Canton and Youngstown airports.

Shortly after learning that its last scheduled airline would be ending service in early January 2018, officials at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport hired a consultant to assess how the airport could regain commercial service.

The report by Mike Mooney of Voltaire Aviation was not promising. It will be a challenge for Youngstown to regain air service, although not impossible.

His report also carried ominous news for the Akron-Canton Airport, which has seen two airlines decamp to Cleveland in the past five years.

One of CAK’s current carriers, Spirit Airlines, has been posting load factors that are 8 load factor points under the Spirit system load factor for the period of November 2016 to May 2017.

Although Mooney did not draw any conclusions as to what that might mean for CAK, he did say the Akron-Canton and Youngstown airports are losing flights to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and Pittsburgh International Airport as ultra low cost airlines Spirit, Allegiant and Frontier Airlines increase their presence in Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

Mooney said the profitability of the ultra low-cost business model has since 2012 changed the Pittsburgh-Youngstown-Akron-Cleveland air service market from a “backwater to full-scale [ultra-low-cost] battleground” with intense pricing competition.

Hopkins Airport today has the highest concentration of flights provided by the low-cost carriers of any non-destination airport in the county.

Mooney told Youngstown officials to be patient in looking for a replacement airline.

At the same time he said with the rising number of flights from Cleveland and Pittsburgh to resort areas of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, it will be difficult for Youngstown to attract another carrier to provide service to those points.

Allegiant now flies from Youngstown to the Orlando-Sanford Airport and to Clearwater International Airport in the Tampa Bay region. None of those flights operate daily.

Allegiant once offered flights from Youngstown to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Punta Gorda, Florida.

John Moliterno, executive director of the Western Reserve Port Authority, noted that Allegiant flights from Youngstown have had over 90 percent occupancy.

“We know what the numbers were. We had a very high percent occupancy on those flights. We had a very high percentage occupancy on flights that Allegiant canceled prior,” he said.

“Something has changed how they look at their business model. Something has changed in terms of how they operate and where they want to go,” Moliterno said.

Mooney suggested that the changes include declining load factors in, the loss of a low fare advantage, and decisions by carriers to focus on markets in larger cities that were once dominated by legacy airlines.

The first ultra low-cost carrier to serve the Pittsburgh-Youngstown-Cleveland-Akron region was Allegiant, which began flying into Youngstown in 2006.

Back then, Continental Airlines had a hub in Cleveland and Pittsburgh still has substantial service from USAirways, which had operated a hub there until 2004.

As recently as 2000, USAirways and its regional partners operated more than 500 daily flights from Pittsburgh to more than 110 destinations. By 2007, that had shrunk to 70 flights to 21 destinations.

Hub airports may offer travelers a wide number of non-stop flights to numerous destinations, but they also tend to have higher fares.

When Allegiant landed in Youngstown, the airport had been without commercial air service for more than three years.

At the same time, another low fare carrier, AirTran, was beginning to expand service from Akron-Canton to Florida. AirTran soon became CAK’s busiest carrier and eventually began service to New York and Boston.

Yet another low fare carrier, Frontier, offered flights from CAK to Denver.

Both airports benefited from the low fares offered by Allegiant, Frontier and AirTran. Many travelers from the Cleveland and Pittsburgh metropolitan areas began driving to the Youngstown and Akron-Canton airports to take advantage of them.

In the meantime, USAirways continued to cut flights in Pittsburgh and Continental merged with United Airlines, which in 2014 began phasing out its Cleveland hub. United reduced its 200 flights in Cleveland to 72 serving 20 destinations.

On the heels of these service cuts by the legacy carriers, the low fare carriers saw opportunity.

Frontier bolted from Akron-Canton in 2012 for Hopkins where it has since established a major presence.

AirTran was acquired by Southwest Airlines in 2014 and initially kept most flights out of CAK, flying to Chicago, New York, Boston, Washington, Atlanta, Orlando, Las Vegas and Tampa-St. Petersburg.

Southwest began pulling back from Akron-Canton in 2015, ending all service except to Atlanta. The last Southwest flight from Akron-Canton left this past June as Southwest deployed planes once serving CAK to new routes from Cleveland and Columbus, among other cities.

As Southwest was cutting service at CAK, Allegiant in May 2015 came into the airport located near Green with flights to Florida and the Southeast. Many of those flights were seasonal and none operated daily.

Then in November 2016, Spirit Airlines began flying to CAK, not long after Allegiant announced it was withdrawing from the airport in favor of service from Cleveland Hopkins to 10 destinations, which was more than the airline ever had from Akron-Canton.

Spirit continues to serve Akron-Canton, but with far fewer flights to fewer destinations than it offers from Hopkins. Spirit’s service from CAK is oriented to Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Myrtle Beach and Las Vegas.

Airline consultant Mooney told Youngstown officials that their airport has suffered from the changing strategies of the low-cost carriers in the Cleveland-Pittsburgh service market that will make it difficult to attract other carriers.

“Youngstown’s service just got overwhelmed by all three carriers competing with each other at Cleveland and Pittsburgh,” Mooney said.

This competition also has affected Akron-Canton although it continues to have a moderate level of service, much of it provided by regional carriers operating under the brand names of legacy carriers United, American and Delta.

This includes service to New York, Newark, Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia, Washington and Charlotte, North Carolina.

Delta operates three non-stop flights daily between CAK and Atlanta using MD88 mainline jets. All other flights use regional jet equipment.

Youngstown, though, has not enjoyed the level of service that Akron-Canton has had.

Aside from service by Allegiant, Youngstown is served by periodic public charters oriented to trips to casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and in Mississippi.

A service between Youngstown and Chicago O’Hare International Airport by Aerodynamics Inc. began July 1, 2016, but ended in late August of that year.

Mooney said neither Youngstown or Akron-Canton can draw on the nearby Cleveland and Pittsburgh metroplexes for passengers as they once did.

Youngstown’s best chance to land commercial air service after Allegiant leaves may lie with a regional carrier flying small planes and which does not have an operating agreement to fly under the brand name of a legacy carrier.

One such carrier might be Southern Airways. Based in Memphis, Tennessee, Southern operates single-engine turboprops.

“We are going to talk to them all. We are going to try to bring another airline to this airport,” said Moliterno of the Western Reserve Port Authority, which operates the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.

Although Moliterno said commercial service accounts for less than 10 percent of the airport’s overall business, an empty terminal creates a negative public perception.

“Which is the other reason it is very important for us to get that service back,” he said.

Allegiant to End Service to Youngstown

October 11, 2017

The last scheduled commercial airline service at Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport will end on Jan. 4, 2018, when Allegiant Air ceases flying to  two Florida destinations.

Allegiant said demand is not high enough to continue service from Youngstown to the Orlando-Sanford and Clearwater airports.

In a statement, Allegiant said passengers booked out of Youngstown beyond early January will be given a refund or rebooked on Allegiant flights from Cleveland or Pittsburgh.

Airport officials, though, dispute that the Allegiant flights are doing poorly.

John Moliterno, executive director of the Western Reserve Port Authority, said the flights have had over 90 percent occupancy.

Allegiant has been flying to Youngstown since 2006. For a time in the past two years it also flew to the Akron-Canton Airport.

2 Airlines to Launch Service From Cleveland to Iceland

August 24, 2017

Two airlines announced this week that they will begin flying from Cleveland to Iceland next May, thus restoring service between Northeast Ohio and Europe after an eight-year absence.

Both carriers are based in Iceland. WOW Air said it would begin flights to Reykjavik on May 4 and has started selling tickets for the flights, with some going as low as $99 one way.

Flights will arrive in Cleveland at 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

Departures will leave Cleveland on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 12:30 a.m.

Icelandair said it will fly between Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and Keflavik International Airport in Reykjavik four times a week. It has not yet said what days it will operate and what its schedule will be.

Both airlines emphasized the connections that they have from their Iceland hubs to major cities in Europe.

Cleveland has been without service to Europe since 2009. Continental Airlines previously operated non-stop flights to Paris and London.

WOW also flies to Iceland from Pittsburgh and plans to launch new service to Cincinnati, Detroit and St. Louis.

Trump Budget Would End Essential Air Service

March 20, 2017

It doesn’t get as much attention as Amtrak funding, but the federal government also underwrites airline service to rural regions of the United States.

No cites in Ohio receive funding for essential air service, but the program helps provide service in some neighboring states, including Pennsylvania.

The Trump administration budget proposal for fiscal year 2018 would end all federal funding for essential air service.

The budget proposal said ending the program would save about $175 million a year.

News reports indicate that The Essential Air Service program subsidizes airline flights to 111 communities that would otherwise have no scheduled service and which are at least 210 miles from the nearest hub airport.

About 60 communities in Alaska also receive subsidized air service.

Funding for air service to smaller communities has been around since the post-World War II era, but the current program was put into place in 1978 to preserve service at communities that were likely to lose air service in the wake of airline deregulation.

The program has drawn criticism because not all flights are full and the cost per passenger is high.

As is likely to be the case with the Trump administration plan to cut funding for Amtrak long-distance trains, opposition to the air service cuts are likely to arise in Congress, particularly the Senate, from lawmakers from rural states who have resisted past efforts to kill the air service program.