Posts Tagged ‘airline service’

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.

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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.

Icelandic Airlines 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.

 

Hopkins Air Travel Rose in 2016, But CAK Sank

February 13, 2017

It was a year for Cleveland Hopkins International Airport to takeoff, while Akron-Canton Airport continued sinking in the Northeast Ohio air travel market.

Cleveland HopkinsPassenger statistics released last week showed that Hopkins served 8.42 million passengers in 2016, an increase of 4 percent over 2015.

Akron-Canton served 1.4 million travelers, a drop of 9.5 percent from 2015.

The two airports are flying in different directions with Cleveland steadily gaining airlines and new flights while Akron-Canton has been losing flights more often than it has gained them.

That fact will be illustrated this month when Allegiant Air begins serving Hopkins while pulling out of Akron-Canton.

The biggest blow at Akron-Canton has been the loss of flights by Southwest Airlines, which plans to cease flying to CAK this summer.

Southwest now flies three times a day between Akron-Canton and Atlanta, but starting in June two of those flights will move to Cleveland.

The only gain Akron-Canton has enjoyed in the past year is the arrival of Spirit Airlines, which also serves Cleveland.

Air traffic also increased in 2016 at airports serving Pittsburgh, Columbus and Cincinnati.

Traffic rose by 2.2 percent at Pittsburgh International Airport to 8.3 million.

John Glenn Columbus International Airport saw traffic rise by 7.8 percent to 7.3 million.

Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport posted a traffic increase of 7.2 percent to 6.8 million.

Ultimate Air Shuttle Begins Burke-NYC Service

January 20, 2017

Ultimate Air Shuttle began service this week between Cleveland’s Burke Lakefront Airport and the New York City Area.

Ultimate air shuttleThe flights depart Burke at 10:45 a.m. and arrive at 9:42 a.m. The service is via an airport in Morristown, New Jersey.

The carrier said it will also plans to begin service between Burke and Atlanta although it has not yet announced a start-up date.

Flights to Atlanta will involve an intermediate stop in Cincinnati, and land at Dekalb-Peachtree Airport, located 10 miles south of downtown Atlanta.

Rick Pawlak, managing director of the Ultimate, said the service is pending approval of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Ultimate began service between Burke and Cincinnati Lunken Airport in October 2015. It was the first scheduled air service from Burke in nearly 10 years.

Flights are operated with Ultimate’s fleet of 30-seat Dornier 328 jets and a 30-seat Embraer 135 jet.

Spirit Begins Service Today at Akron-Canton

November 10, 2016

Competition between airlines flying to the same destinations out of Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and Akron-Canton Airport is nothing new.

Akron-Canton AirportBut today (Nov. 10), will mark the first time that the same low-fare carrier has flown from both airport to the same destinations in Florida.

Spirit Airlines will begin service from Akron-Canton to Fort Lauderdale on Thursday with service to Orlando, Tampa and Fort Myers slated to begin later in the week.

The carrier will also fly from Akron-Canton to Las Vegas and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Spirit serves all of those destinations from Cleveland and the carrier insists that the market is large enough for both airports.

“We see them as two separate markets that complement each other,” said Paul Berry, Spirit’s director of communications. “Our data shows that both airports pull from different areas.

“We’re pleased with the way Cleveland is performing,” said Berry. “If Cleveland continues to perform the way it is, we’re going to look for more opportunity there.”

The arrival of Spirit at Akron-Canton will come just ahead of Allegiant Air leaving the airport and transferring all of its flights from CAK to Hopkins.

Allegiant will not only serve from Cleveland the same destinations it flies to from Akron-Canton, but will also add service to cities not now linked from CAK.

When Allegiant begins operations in Cleveland next Feb. 10, it will fly to 10 destinations, including New Orleans; Austin, Texas; and Savannah, Georgia.

Allegiant has insisted that it is not pulling out of CAK because Spirit is coming in.

“The base of our customers is coming from Cleveland. We’re going to listen to our customers,” said Lukas Johnson, Allegiant’s vice president of planning.

Industry observers have noted that Allegiant is moving away from a reliance on serving smaller airports and moving into larger markets.

Spirit, though, is seeking to pick up some smaller markets, a move prompted by the airline’s new CEO, Bob Fornaro.

As the former CEO of AirTran, Fornaro was familiar with Akron-Canton Airport.

Until it merged with Southwest Airlines in late 2014, AirTran was the major carrier at Akron-Canton and had flights to Florida, New York, Boston, Las Vegas, Atlanta and Milwaukee.

The flights drew many travelers from Greater Cleveland because AirTran fares were generally lower than those offered from Hopkins Airport.

Flight Cuts Hurt Youngstown Airport

October 29, 2016

The commercial airline woes continue for the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, which is losing flights and revenue.

Youngstown AirportAirport officials expect the yearly passenger count at the airport this year to be 110,000, which would be 20,000 less than in 2015.

The latest flight cutbacks were the cancellation of flights by Allegiant Air between Youngstown and Punta Gorda, Florida, near Fort Myers.

Aviation Director Dan Dickten said there is no clear date for when the Punta Gorda flights might be reinstated.

In late August the airport lost service to Chicago O’Hare International Airport by Great Lakes Jet Express.

Dickten said the lost flights have resulted in falling parking revenue. In 2015, the airport made $400,000 in parking revenue, but expects that to fall to about $315,000 this year.

Allegiant this year has expanded service to Akron-Canton Airport and Pittsburgh International Airport, which Dickten said has reduced the customer base for the Youngstown airport.

Allegiant announced earlier that it will move its flights from Akron-Canton to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and it is not clear what effect, if any, this would have on Allegiant operations in Youngstown.

Ultimate To Begin Burke-NYC Route in 2017

October 22, 2016

Ultimate Air Shuttle plans to begin scheduled service between Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland and the New York City region in early 2017.

Ultimate air shuttleNo date has been set for service to begin, but Rick Pawlak, managing director of the airline, said the company hopes to launch the flights by early March.

Ultimate will fly from Burke to Morristown (New Jersey) Municipal Airport, located about 27 miles from Manhattan. Fares are projected to be between $600 and $650.

“We’ve canvassed the business community. We know the demand is there,” Pawlak said.

The charter carrier is also looking at launching a route from Burke to Chicago’s Midway Airport next year.

Although Ultimate had hoped to start service from Cleveland to New York and Chicago this year, it has been unable to do so due to a lack of aircraft.

Ultimate Air Shuttle, a division of Ultimate JetCharters in North Canton, owns eight 30-seat Dornier 328 jets and one 30-seat Embraer 135 jet. It is hoping to acquire another Embraer jet for its fleet in 2017.

Ultimate began weekday service between Burke and Cincinnati Lunken Airport in October 2015.

Departing Burke for Cincinnati at 8:10 a.m. and 6:20 p.m., the fares on the route are $379 roundtrip.

U.S. Department of Transportation figures show that 4,359 passengers flew out of Burke during the first six months of 2016, including 3,861 on Ultimate Air. During the first six months in 2015, just 724 passengers departed from Burke.

Pawlak described the Cleveland-to-Cincinnati route as performing well. “We’re ready for the next step in our growth,” he said.

Airline Turbulence Continues at Akron-Canton

September 24, 2016

The churn of airline service at Akron-Canton Airport continued this week with the news that Allegiant Air will leave the airport early next year and that Spirit Airlines will increase the number of destinations that it plans to serve from CAK.

Akron-Canton AirportAkron-Canton will also see an increase in service by American Eagle in early October.

Allegiant, which began service to Akron-Canton in spring 2015, plans to move it flights from CAK to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

The discount carrier, which specializes in selling travel packages as well as air fares, will cease serving Akron-Canton on Feb. 15.

For its part, Spirit plans to begin service at Akron-Canton on Nov. 10, serving many of the same destinations that Allegiant now serves.

From Akron-Canton, Allegiant serves St. Petersburg, Florida; Punta Gorda, Florida; Orlando (Sanford); Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; and Savannah, Georgia.

Many of those destinations are seasonal and none are served daily.

Allegiant said it would link Cleveland with all of those destinations as well as launch routes between Cleveland and Jacksonville, Florida.; Austin, Texas; New Orleans; and Phoenix.

Spirit will offer service from Akron-Canton to Orlando International Airport and to Fort Lauderdale. Allegiant’s Orlando flights actually go to Sanford.

Spirit also plans to provide winter seasonal service several times a week to Tampa and Fort Myers, Florida. Summer seasonal service to Myrtle Beach will begin next April 27.

This week Spirit announced that it will begin flying between Akron-Canton and Las Vegas on April 27, providing the first service between those cities since Southwest Airlines ended its flights on the route earlier this year.

American Eagle plans to institute twice daily service on Oct. 6 between Akron-Canton and Chicago O’Hare International Airport, and to increase its service between Akron-Canton and New York LaGuardia Airport to twice daily.

United Express currently flies between Akron and O’Hare.

Airport officials said Allegiant told them its flights to Akron-Canton had performed well.

But Allegiant chief operating officer and senior vice president of planning Jude Bricker told attendees of the International Aviation Forecast Summit this month that service between smaller airports and destination cities such as Orlando and Las Vegas has just about played itself out.

Bricker said Allegiant did well in those markets, saying the carrier now has 350 served markets in 109 cities.

“We serve more cities than Southwest Airlines, though we’re much thinner on peak days,” he said.

Allegiant recently began service to Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and plans to begin serving Newark Liberty International Airport.

In Ohio, Allegiant has service to Columbus, Toledo, Youngstown, Dayton and Cincinnati. It has never served Cleveland directly.

Akron-Canton Airport President and Chief Executive Officer Rick McQueen said Allegiant had an 88 percent load factor at CAK.

“It’s always disappointing to lose air service,” he said. “It’s a very precious commodity to the community. The Akron and Canton community really supported that service.”

Within the past year, Akron-Canton has lost service provided by Southwest Airlines. At one time, Southwest flew to Atlanta, Chicago Midway, LaGuardia, Washington Reagan National, Denver, Las Vegas and Orlando.

Today, Southwest continues to fly to Atlanta three times a day and has Saturday-only service to Orlando.

In a statement, Bricker said moving Allegiant’s flights to Cleveland “will allow Allegiant to have a stronger presence in Northeast Ohio and allow us to offer our low fares and convenient travel to even more travelers.”

Spirit also serves Cleveland and although it has said it expects to do well in Cleveland and Akron-Canton, there has been speculation that some Cleveland flights might migrate to Akron-Canton if the load factors out of Cleveland drop off.