Posts Tagged ‘airports’

Merger Effects on NEO Airports Uncertain

February 12, 2022

The proposed merger of Spirit and Frontier airlines may affect airline service in Northeast Ohio although local airport officials are unsure as to how.

If the merger occurs the combined carrier would become the largest at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport based on 2021 passenger traffic for the two carriers.

In 2021, United Airlines with 1.7 million passengers accounted for 23 percent of the passenger traffic at Hopkins.

Frontier and Spirit combined accounted for more than 2 million or 27 percent of the airport’s traffic.

At present Frontier has about 12 percent of the Hopkins traffic, making it the fifth largest carrier from Cleveland. Spirit is the sixth largest.

Frontier flies to 13 destinations from Cleveland while Spirit has 11 destinations. Many of those overlap, particularly the leisure travel markets in Florida, Mexico (Cancun) and Las Vegas.

Hopkins airport director Robert Kennedy told The Plain Dealer that the merger, which would create the fifth largest airline in the United States, could result in more service from Cleveland.

“I don’t see this as a negative. I think it actually could work well for us in terms of new destinations,” he said.

A similar sentiment was expressed by Akron-Canton Airport head Ren Camacho.

Saying there are many unknowns about the merger, Camacho told WKSU-FM, “We remain cautiously optimistic that this could bode well for the Akron-Canton Airport as Spirit Airlines has been a longtime partner with us, and we will continue to work with our partners at Spirit Airlines to maintain service at CAK as this potential merger continues to unfold.”

Frontier flew from Akron-Canton for six years but left there in 2012 in favor of serving Hopkins.

Spirit has a handful of flights from CAK, including year-around service to Orlando, Florida, and seasonal service to the Florida cities of Tampa and Fort Myers, and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

The merger of Spirit and Frontier is subject to U.S. government review. The carriers have not revealed the name or headquarters of the proposed merged carrier. They hope to complete their merger in late 2022.

The two airlines are similar in that they offer low base fares but impose fees for such things as checked luggage and advance seat assignments.

Robert Mann, president of R.W. Mann & Company, a consulting firm based in New York, told The Plain Dealer both Spirit and Frontier have developed reputations for reliability and customer service.

The value of the merger has been placed at $6.6 billion. Collectively, the two carriers now fly to 145 destinations in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Much of the growth of Spirit and Frontier at Hopkins came after United Airlines closed a hub there in 2014 and dropped dozens of flights and destinations.

Also expanding in Cleveland in the wake of the United hub closure was discount fare carrier Allegiant Air.

However, Allegiant ended service to Cleveland in January and plans to resume serving Akron-Canton Airport in March.

That will give CAK three budget carriers. Aside from Spirit, Akron-Canton also is served by startup carrier Breeze Airways.

Even before the Spirit-Frontier merger had been announced, Spirit had said it would expand its presence at Hopkins by doubling its counter and gate space.

At the time that announcement was made in late 2021, Spirit said it would say later why it was expanding its physical presence at the airport, which suggested it planned to expand its flights and destinations from Cleveland.

From Cleveland, Frontier now flies to Atlanta; Charleston, South Carolina; Cancun, Mexico; Denver; Las Vegas; Orlando; Miami; Phoenix; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; Fort Myers; Sarasota; and Tampa.

Spirit flies from Cleveland to Atlanta, Cancun, Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Orlando, Miami, New Orleans, Myrtle Beach, Fort Myers and Tampa.

COVID-19 Transportation Aid Levels Proposed

February 9, 2021

Democrats in the House of Representatives have reportedly settled on funding levels for transportation that would be included in a proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill.

Under the proposal, transit agencies would receive $30 billion, Amtrak would get $1.5 billion, airlines would receive $14 billion and airports would get $8 billion.

The COVID-19 aid funding for transit falls short of the $39.3 billion that transit systems were seeking.

Amtrak funding would nearly match the $1.541 billion that the intercity passenger carrier is seeking from Congress.

However, it exceeds the $20 million that President Joseph Biden had proposed.

Biden’s initial proposal contained no funding for Amtrak or airlines.

A House committee is expected to begin working this week on the COVID-19 pandemic aid proposal.

Hopkins Officials Eye 3 Options For Airport Terminal Development

October 19, 2020

Three plans have emerged for the future of the terminal at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, ranging from a new terminal to renovating the existing structure.

The options were discussed last week at a public hearing although officials said there is no assurance that any of the options will be implemented.

Nonetheless airport officials said during the hearing that the airport needs more ticketing and gate space, additional parking, more efficient and larger security and customs areas, better roadway access, and an on-site car rental facility.

The new terminal proposal would use the existing terminal’s footprint but involve two parallel buildings connected via an underground tunnel.

A second proposal would keep the existing terminal largely intact but lengthen concourse B, widen concourse C and reopen concourse D.

The third option would be to keep keep Concourse A but replace concourses B, C and D.

The next step in the planning process is to narrow the options to a preferred alternative and conduct studies of how to fund the project.

Officials did not say how much the options would cost but a new terminal would be expected to cost more than $1 billion.

During the hearing, consultants discussed options for improving airport access.

Among the proposals are rerouting Ohio Route 237, also known as the Berea Freeway, and creating a new elevated exit for the airport from Interstate 71 at Snow Road.

The consultants also recommended that the airport do a better job of enforcing limits on how long vehicles can wait on the lower level of the terminal to pick up arriving travelers.

Their report said the average wait time of five minutes is creating congestion. The average wait time at airports of similar size is three minutes.

“The problem is not how much curb [space] there is but how efficiently it is managed and how well the public obeys [the rules],” said Owen Curtis of Curtis Transportation Consulting.

Hopkins Satisfaction Improves, But Still Puts it Among Nation’s Least Popular Airports

September 28, 2020

Although traveler satisfaction with Cleveland Hopkins Airport has risen, it remains rated among the worst airports for its size according to a survey made by marketing firm J.D. Power.

Hopkins improved its score in the annual survey from 755 to 786 but that placed it third from the bottom among medium-sized airport, which handle 4 million to 9.9 million passengers annually.

The highest potential score is 1,000. In 2020 the average score for all airports was 784.

The top-rated airport in the medium category was Indianapolis with Pittsburgh also ranking in the top five.

The J.D. Power survey was conducted from October 2019 through July 2020, meaning it covered the period during which air travel plunged due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Cleveland would have been ranked as a “large” airport based on its 2019 passenger totals of 10 million.

A spokesman for J.D. Power said the rankings are planned far in advance and thus don’t use the most up-to-date passenger numbers.

Had Cleveland been rated as a large airport it would have ranked 17th out of 28 airports.

Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power, said North America’s top-rated airports have in common an open, airy experience that feels more like a well-designed shopping mall than an airport.

“These airports also do a good job of conveying local flavor in their passenger experience, from food and beverage offerings that feature regional specialties to design cues that evoke local color,” he said.

Among the largest airports, which handled 33 million or more passengers a year, Phoenix ranked first and Newark last. Among large airports (10 million to 32.9 million passengers annually), Dallas Love Field ranked best and New York LaGuardia ranked worst.

In an unrelated development, Cleveland officials said the announced closing of the International Exposition Center at the airport is expected to mean a loss of more than $2 million to the airport.

I-X Center Corporation, which leased the exposition center from the city, had been paying $2 million in annual rent.

The company renting the I-X Center said it would close the facilities due to a collapse of business following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Hopkins Users Give Wish List for Airport Improvements in Master Plan Revision Hearings

September 9, 2020

Users of Cleveland Hopkins Airport last week gave their wish lists of improvements they want to see at the airport.

Those include additional parking, improvements to the roadways into the airport, wider concourses, more use of public transportation to the airport, a better location for rental cars, fewer security checkpoints, and improvements to the U.S. Customs facilities.

Those were among the wishes expressed by those responding to the first public hearing to be held as part of the process of revising the airport’s master plan.

Some, all or none of those recommendations will ultimately be adopted and those that are accepted will take years to implement.

The airport has hired a Florida consulting firm to oversee the rewriting of the master plan.

Airport Director Robert Kennedy said during last week’s hearing that the future of the unused Concourse D remains unresolved.

It was built in 1999 for smaller aircraft that supported the hub operations of Continental Airlines.

But that hub was closed in 2014 when the Cleveland hub was shut down by United Airlines, which had acquired Continental in 2010.

Kennedy described Concourse D as a “distressed asset” because it was designed to accommodate smaller planes, many of which no longer use Hopkins.

The airport director said Cleveland is unlikely to become a hub airport again and officials said the downturn in international travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic means that it is likely to be some time before Cleveland lands a nonstop flight to Europe.

The pandemic has depressed air traffic at Hopkins and officials said it may take at least three to four years to recover.

Hopkins handled 10 million passengers in 2019 but is expected to see far less than that this year. The consulting firm projects traffic will reach 11 million to 13 million by 2029.

In the meantime, the airport has begun work on a new ground transportation center located north of the terminal for passengers to board shuttle buses to off-site hotels and parking lots.

The facility will include covered seating areas, wider walking areas and be heated. It is expected to open in November.

In a related development, American Airlines said it will launch Saturday-only service between Cleveland and Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport on Nov. 7.

It will be the second time American has flown the route, having dropped it about four years ago. Frontier and Southwest also fly between the two cities.

American plans to operate a 160-seat Boeing 737-800 on the route and it aiming at leisure travelers with flights departing Cleveland at 10:45 a.m. and returning at 8:05 p.m.

Traffic Picking Up at Akron-Canton Airport

June 29, 2020

Akron-Canton Airport is starting to see passenger traffic pick up and Airport CEO Ren Camacho expects a further growth in average daily traffic in July and August.

Speaking during a virtual Akron Roundtable session last week, Camacho said traffic was so slow during April that what had been a normal average of 2,000 passengers per day plunged to a trickle of about 100 passengers per day.

Comacho said the second phase of a $34 million gate modernization project will be completed by July 13.

Once new gates open in a two-level, 41,600-square-foot concourse, an older gate concourse will be razed.

The airport expects to post a nearly $3 million deficit this year but that will be offset in part by $7.6 million in CARES Act funding.

“It sounds like a lot of money, but it’s over a four-year window,” he said.

In an unrelated development, airport officials said they’ve selected Akron artist Lenny Spengler to design its atrium terrazzo floor as part of the airport’s concourse expansion project.

Spengler will create a tree design with leaves depicting historical images from the region, including the Goodyear Blimp and All-American Soap Box Derby and portraits of LeBron James and Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys.

The floor replacement project, expected to cost $150,000, is expected to be completed by November when the gate modernization project will wrap up.

Spengler, who has been an artist for more than 24 years, is the sole proprietor and creative director of Where’s Squiggy Creative LLC, a creative arts agency, and owner and silversmith of Studio Lené, an Akron metalsmith studio.

“A tree rooted in the Akron-Canton area can attribute its flourishing to the diverse collection of people, places and events that have shaped it,” Spengler said. “The people who have helped establish it as a city, the places that have helped define its purpose, and the events that have helped illustrate its image, are all leaves on the tree.”

More than 25 artists submitted designs for the airport’s atrium floor, which were reviewed by a panel of judges from Arts Now, ArtsInStark and the Akron-Canton Airport.

Camacho said the designs were evaluated based on whether they created a “sense of place,” appeared timeless and sparked a conversation.

Flying Like its 1954

April 14, 2020

Air travel numbers have dropped to the levels of the early 1950s.

On April 8 the Transportation Security Administration said it screened 94,931 people at U.S. airports, the second consecutive day that the number of those screened fell below 100,000.

Air travel statistics show that the last time the U.S. averaged fewer than 100,000 air passengers per day was in 1954.

Airline industry observers say the number of passengers flying may be smaller than TSA numbers indicate because those figures include airline crew members and some employees of airport shops and restaurants located beyond the checkpoints.

The decline in TSA screenings was 96 percent less than it was on April 8, 2019.

TSA said that on March 1 this year it screened nearly 2.3 million passengers at U.S. airport.

The plunge in passengers began in the second week of March and has only shown signs of slowing in recent days, perhaps because it has just about hit its floor.

Back in 1954 the only commercial jetliner was the British-built de Havilland Comet and it had only been flying commercially for two years.

The Boeing 707 was still in development and would not make its first flight until 1957 and enter commercial service on Oct. 26, 1958.

Industry trade group Airlines for America said airline capacity has been slashed by 71 percent although some reports have placed the figure at 90 percent.

Anecdotal reports have surfaced in the news media that some flights have operated with just one passenger aboard.

The trade group said on average only one in every 10 seats on domestic flights is occupied.

Flight cancellations have been widespread in the past four weeks.

U.S. Airlines have reported taking out of service 1,800 planes or about 30 percent of the airline fleet.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, TSA workers are now wearing masks and in some instances face shields.

TSA said 327 of its employees have tested positive for the virus. The union representing flight attendants at American Airlines said 100 of its members have tested positive.

Industry observers expect demand for air travel to grow slowly once the pandemic subsides.

Airline traffic took a major hit following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington and air travel once restored didn’t begin to grow until 2003.

Some believe air travel will grow even slower following the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Associated Press reported that Polling firm Public Opinion Strategies found fewer than half the Americans it surveyed about 10 days ago say they will get on a plane within six months of the spread of the virus flattening.

The firm Stifel Nicolaus projects that in a best case scenario air travel demand won’t return to pre-pandemic numbers until the middle of 2021.

Those traveling tend to be health care professionals on their way to pandemic hot spots and a few traveling to be with family.

United Airlines reported it is losing $100 million a day while Delta Air Lines put its losses at $60 million a day.

U.S. carriers are expected to accept federal emergency grants to cover their payrolls through September.

The industry expects carriers to be smaller in the post pandemic era.

How quickly air travel recovers will hinge upon a number of factors including social distancing rules and how quickly those thrown out of work during the pandemic are able to resume their jobs or find new employment.

Airline Service Cuts Start to Reach CAK, CLE

March 21, 2020

Airline service cuts have come to Northeast Ohio with additional service reductions slated for Cleveland Hopkins and Akron-Canton Airports.

United Airlines has canceled one of its two daily roundtrips between Cleveland and Los Angeles and between Cleveland and San Francisco.

The carrier also plans in April to suspend its service between Houston and Akron-Canton.

Delta Airlines said it will suspend routes linking Cleveland and Hartford, Connecticut, and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.

Spirit Airlines is suspending service to Boston from Cleveland.

With United poised to reduce its capacity in half in April and May and Delta saying it will reduce its capacity by 70 percent and park half of its fleet, additional Northeast Ohio flight cuts are likely.

Delta expects to lose $2 billion in March compared to what it earned last year in that month and to see even worse losses in April.

United said it expects March revenue to be $1.5 billion lower than it was in March 2019.

American Airlines has said it will ground 55,000 flights in April and park 450 planes.

The carrier said its domestic flight schedule will be thinned by 30 percent in April with further reductions expected in May.

One airline that serves Cleveland and Akron-Canton will go out of business on April 1.

Trans States Airlines, which operates between both airports and Chicago O’Hare under the United Express Brand, said it will shut down because the flight cuts being implemented by United will be deeper than it expected and the curtailment of United Express service came faster than it anticipated.

The Plain Dealer reported this week that Cleveland airports officials said air traffic there could drop by as much as 50 percent and those flights still operating could be only 20 to 30 percent full.

Hopkins officials expect the flight service reductions to continue into the summer.

“United has indicated it’s only a temporary suspension and once demand picks back up in the industry, we’ll see it back in the network,” CAK airport spokeswoman Lisa Dalpiaz told the Plain Dealer in reference to the loss of service to Houston.

The Delta website said that even after it curtails its domestic flight schedules it will continue to offer connectivity with its reduced schedule.

In the meantime, Hopkins has closed its Brown Lot and any vehicles currently parked there will be able to exit without charge.

The Brown Lot Shuttle was to stop operating at 10 a.m. on March 21. Passengers needing to reach the lot to return to their vehicle are being advised to use a CLE Taxi.

There will be no charge for that service and it is located on the south end of the arrivals level near bag claim 11.

From Akron-Canton, Delta has three daily flights to Atlanta. Aside from Houston, United flies from CAK to Chicago and Newark, New Jersey.

American flies from CAK to Chicago, Charlotte, Philadelphia, New York and Washington.

Spirit Airlines has service from CAK to Orlando, Tampa and Fort Myers. However, the service to the latter two points is seasonal and would be ending before summer even in normal circumstances. The Orlando route operates year around.

One Hopkins official said the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic is worse that the hit airports and airlines took following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

How much airports and airlines are hurt by the pandemic will hinge on how long the pandemic lasts and how soon the economy recovers.

Hopkins plans to continue working on its new airport master plan, which is expected to recommend major capital improvements.

Hopkins Eyes New or Greatly Improved Airport Terminal

February 21, 2020

A new or improved terminal is expected to be recommended in an update of the master plan for Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

A new terminal would cost an estimated $1 billion and the update to the master plan is expected to discuss how to pay for it.

Although fees paid by airlines using the airport are expected to pay for a large chunk of a new or renovated terminal, other sources of funding would come from parking and ground transportation fees.

Whether the airport moves ahead with a new or rebuilt terminal, the upfront costs are expected to come from the sale of bonds.

Airline fees, parking fees and other revenue would then be devoted to paying off the bonds.

A Florida consulting firm was hired last fall to update the master plan.

It may release its recommendations for airport improvements as soon as this spring.

The airport would then take the expected suggestions and hold a series of public events to review them before choosing a preferred alternative.

The current Hopkins terminal and its related infrastructure is aging and the airport has often fared poorly in surveys of travelers asked to rate airport facilities.

However, the airport has a modern concourse that is not being used.

Concourse D was built by Continental Airlines to handle flights flown by small regional jets and turboprop aircraft during the era when Cleveland was a Continental hub.

The concourse could still be used as part of a renovated terminal, but would need rebuilding in order to accommodate larger jet aircraft.

Hopkins no longer has any flights that use turboprop aircraft and airlines have moved away from using smaller regional jets.

Concourse D was closed in 2014 in the wake of United Airlines, which merged with Continental in March 2012, closing the Cleveland hub.

Hopkins also has some of the highest airline fees in the country although in recent years they have been reduced by 38 percent partly in a bid to attract more airline service.

The airport’s debut has also been reduced by 27 percent over the past five years.

It has fallen from $986 million in 2003 to $816 million in 2013 to $595 million in 2019.

Nonetheless, the cost per enplanement at Hopkins is higher than at airports in Pittsburgh, Columbus, Indianapolis, Akron-Canton and Cincinnati.

Cost per enplanement is the total of fees and rents paid by a carrier, divided by the number of passengers boarding at the airport.

Last year in Cleveland those were $13.26, which was down from a peak of $21.25 in 2014.

Only eight airports had a higher cost per enplanement in 2018, the latest year for which figures are available. They were Newark, New York Kennedy, San Francisco, New York LaGuardia, Miami, Chicago O’Hare, Los Angeles and Washington Dulles.

Hopkins officials say they are working to get the cost per enplanement below $10.

In the meantime, Hopkins has increased parking fees as well as the fees charged to limo drivers, Uber and Lyft drivers, and hotel and parking lot shuttles that operate at the airport.

The closing of the United hub in Cleveland has meant that the vast majority of the passengers who fly from Hopkins are starting their trip here as opposed to connecting from one flight to another.

Airport officials say most of the airline traffic at Hopkins is made up of people living in Northeast Ohio.

CAK Names New CEO

August 10, 2018

The Akron-Canton Airport Authority conducted a national search for its new CEO, but it turned out it didn’t have to look very far.

This week it hired Renato Camacho, who is currently chief of planning and engineering for Port Control at the Cleveland Airport System, which oversees Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Burke Lakefront Airport and Lakefront Harbors.

Comacho, 48, will begin working at Akron-Canton on Oct. 1 and replaces Rick McQueen, who will retire at the end of December.

Already, though, Comacho, has been outlining how he will approach the challenges facing the airport located between its namesake cities.

That will start by listening to the communities served by the airport and determining what they want CAK to be.

“It takes a village” to grow an airport, Camacho said. “Engaging the community [is critical], I can’t say that enough.”

Camacho arrives as passenger traffic at Akron-Canton is in a decline largely precipitated by the loss of carriers and flights.

In 2012, CAK served 1.84 million passengers but traffic has been falling since then, reaching 1.27 million in 2017, a drop of 9.48 percent from the prior year.

“There are many, many airports throughout the country facing our same dilemma, especially the regional airports,” Camacho said.

He said the challenge for regional airports is providing nonstop service to desired destinations while nearby hub airports have established nonstop routes.

Complicating matters is that low-cost carriers have increased their services to hub airports.

Akron-Canton has seen two low-cost carriers, Frontier and Allegiant, forsake it for Cleveland Hopkins. Another low-cost carrier, Spirit, earlier this year cut its service to CAK to one flight a day, although it has indicated it will ramp up service to Florida later this year.

Spirit also has several routes from Hopkins.

Earlier this summer Delta Air Lines downgraded two of its three daily nonstop flights between Akron-Canton and Atlanta to regional jet service flown by a partner airline.

That means that CAK now has just two flights a day using mainline jet aircraft, one flight to Atlanta by Delta and Spirit’s service to Orlando. All other flights are using regional jet equipment.

To build traffic at Akron-Canton, Camacho said he will explore all options to add flights, including travel banks in which businesses pay an airline in advance to provide service.

“Nothing is off the table,” Camacho said, noting that the Pittsburgh International Airport is offering financial incentives to land carriers.

In talking with the community Camacho said his primary purposes will be to promote the airport’s assets and learn what businesses say they need in terms of flight frequency and routes.

“Are there opportunities for American, Delta, United and Spirit to add service?” he said, noting the names of the carriers that provide non-stop flights from CAK to 12 destinations.

McQueen had been holding similar discussions with the business community and those paid off when United launched regional jet service this past June from CAK to Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport.

The airport is seeking to increase the service to Houston beyond its current single roundtrip a day.

In the meantime, Camacho does not expect to change the $240 million, 20-year plan guiding capital improvements at CAK that was released two years ago.

On Aug. 28, work will begin on a gate replacement and modernization project, which will cost $32 million.

McQueen has been at the airport for 36 years, the last 10 as its president and CEO.

Before coming to Cleveland, Camacho spent 14 years in the engineering department of the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey.

He received a master’s degree in transportation planning and engineering from NYU/Polytechnic University and bachelor’s degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He is an accredited airport executive, a registered professional engineer and a professional traffic operations engineer.

He will be paid $175,000 annually to head the Akron-Canton airport.