Posts Tagged ‘Cleveland airports’

Airlines Face Higher Costs at Hopkins

February 26, 2021

The airlines serving Cleveland Hopkins Airport are about to face a double squeeze.

Airport authorities said this week that the airlines will pay higher fees so the airport can make up for lost revenue from parking, food service, retail operations and other non-aeronautical functions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The airport also is expecting the airlines to underwrite much of the cost of a new terminal being planning although that project is still years away from launching.

Hopkins already has some of the highest airline fees in the country, in part because of its high debt levels.

Speaking to the Cleveland City Council’s Finance Committee, airport director Robert Kennedy acknowledged that the higher airline fees come at a bad time.

Commercial air traffic at Hopkins hit 10 million in 2019 but plunged to 4.1 million last year as the pandemic decimated the air travel market.

Hopkins expects to handle 5.2 million passengers in 2021, a figure that is 48 percent of the 2019 total.

Kennedy said the airport’s 2021 budget of $151.5 million must be balanced by increasing airline fees because the airport is not allowed to dip into city tax dollars.

Whereas airline fees funded 46 percent of the airport’s costs in 2019, this year that is expected to increase by $21 million and to account for 66 percent of the airport’s revenue.

Last year the airlines paid an average cost per passenger of $32, a figure expected to go even higher in 2021.

By contrast per passenger costs at airports in Columbus, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati are expected to range from $10 to $15.

“We are damaging our competitiveness,” Kennedy said. “This is what drives airlines elsewhere.”

At $645 million Hopkins has a higher debt load than Columbus ($172 million) and Pittsburgh ($43 million).

Cleveland’s debt stems largely from building a new runway two decades ago.

Debt service this year at Hopkins is expected to be more than $65 million or 43 percent of the airport’s budget.

As for the new terminal, airport officials are still working on a plan but envision it being largely a modification of the existing terminal with construction occurring in stages.

The more than $1 billion new terminal is expected to have wider concourses; an expanded ticketing area; a relocated rental car facility; centralized Transportation Security Administration screening; a new, centrally-located Customs facility; and redesigned entry roads.

Airline fees are expected to pay the bulk of the cost and Kennedy acknowledged negotiations with the carriers over fees will be tough.

“The financing of this is going to be a difficult lift in a post-COVID environment,” Kennedy said.

Airport officials have not released a timeline for when construction will begin and how long it will last but the start of work is several years away.

In the past, most airline passengers at Hopkins were passing through, making flight connections when the airport was a hub for Continental Airlines and, later, United Airlines.

Since United closed the Cleveland hub in June 2014 travel patterns at Hopkins have transformed into the majority of travelers beginning or ending their trips there.

That resulted pre-pandemic in parking shortages and overcrowding in some areas of the airport.

Hopkins Traffic Down 59% in 2020

January 25, 2021

As expected 2020 figures for commercial passenger traffic at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport took a deep dive due to the COVID-19 pandemic depressing the air travel market.

Airport officials said 4.1 million passengers used Hopkins last year, a sharp downturn from the previous year when 10.04 million boarded or deplaned at the airport.

The 2020 figures were by far the lowest of the past decade when the previous low was 7.61 million handled in 2014.

Although airline traffic at Hopkins in 2020 was down 59 percent, that was not as bad as the national average of 62 percent based on travel through October, the latest month for which figures are available from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

The worst month at Hopkins in 2020 was April when it handled 30,149 passengers, a decline of more than 96% from April 2019.

The best month was December when the airport saw 333,526 passengers. That was still a 59 decrease from the year before.

In looking ahead, Cleveland airport officials expect traffic at Hopkins this year of between 5.2 million and 6 million.

Industry observers are expecting it will take three to four years before air travel rebuilds to 2019 levels. That won’t happen until business travel, which has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, begins to pick up.

In the meantime, leisure travel has been a significant chunk of the current air travel market and Florida is among the most popular destinations with several carriers flying hundreds of passengers there every day from Cleveland.

Holiday Fares, Direct Destinations to be lower at Hopkins This Year

October 24, 2020

Holiday season air fares from Cleveland Hopkins Airport are expected to be lower but the number of non-stop destinations will be nearly half as many as there were last year.

A travel industry consultant told The Plain Dealer of Cleveland that the average air fare from Hopkins for the Thanksgiving travel season will be $148 roundtrip while the average fare during the Christmas travel season is projected to be $173 roundtrip.

Those figures do not include fees for such things as checked baggage.

Those projections are 45 percent lower than the average fare last year for Thanksgiving travel and 48 percent less than last year for Christmas season travel.

Nationwide, the average fares for Thanksgiving and Christmas travel are expected to be $172 and $222 roundtrip respectively, which are 41 percent and 40 percent lower than 2019 averages.

The consultant told the newspaper that fares are lower this year because airlines are trying to lure back passengers who stopped traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fares are unlikely to change much between now and the holiday travel seasons, the consultant said.

Based on schedules for November already posted by the eight carriers serving Hopkins, there will be 29 nonstop destinations next month compared with 42 in November 2019.

Among the missing destinations are Washington Reagan National, New York Kennedy, Milwaukee, West Palm Beach (Florida), Salt Lake City, Austin (Texas), and Charleston (South Carolina).

United Airlines plans to end service next month between Cleveland and San Francisco, but has announced it will add flights to the Florida cities of Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers and Orlando.

It will also launch service to Cancun in Mexico. JetBlue has also launched new service between Cleveland and Fort Myers to supplement its existing flights to Fort Lauderdale.

Hopkins had 4,018 commercial flights in November 2019 but expects to see 2.099 this November.

Seven of the eight airlines serving Cleveland have one or more suspended destinations that they served in November 2019.

A ninth carrier, an Air Canada partner carrier, has yet to resume service to Toronto.

The most recent figures available from the federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics show Hopkins handled 315,149 passengers in August, a decline of 66 percent from August 2019. Nationwide, air travel was down 70 percent in August.

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration said it screened more than 1 million travelers on Oct. 18, the first time its daily screenings topped the million mark since last March.

However, those 1 million passengers screened was still 60 percent how many passed through security checkpoints nationwide on the same date a year ago.

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.

Air Travel at Hopkins Up in July

August 29, 2020

Airline travel was up 53 percent in July at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport over what it was in June but still well below 2019 levels.

During July 320,800 used Hopkins, many of them leisure travelers. A year ago that figure was 971,000.

This past June Hopkins saw 209,000 travelers. Airport director Robert Kennedy now expects Hopkins to handle 4.1 million passengers for 2020.

That’s well below his predictions early this year that the airport would break last year’s mark of 10.04 million.

Of course Kennedy made that prediction before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has severely depressed airline travel around the world.

In an unrelated development, a Cleveland-based airline said this week it will stop flying on Sept. 30 after its agreement with United Airlines expires.

ExpressJet said the move will affect the jobs of 75 mechanics working at Hopkins. The carrier had earlier this year relocated out of Cleveland hundreds of pilots and flight attendants.

Flying under the United Express banner, ExpressJet got its start as a contract carrier for Continental Airlines, which had a hub in Cleveland.

United has decided to shift its United Express brand flights from ExpressJet to CommutAir, a carrier based in North Olmsted. Both carriers fly 50-seat Embraer 145 regional jets.

United to Expand at Hopkins in November

August 14, 2020

United Airlines said this week it will add service, some of it seasonal, in November and December to Florida from Cleveland Hopkins Airport.

The carrier, which once had a hub at Hopkins, said it will begin once daily service to Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Fort Myers on Nov. 6.

On Dec. 17, it will begin second daily flights from Cleveland to Tampa, Fort Myers and Orlando.

The second flights and Tampa service is only scheduled to operate through Jan. 10, 2021, but the other flights are scheduled through next summer.

The expansion is part of a larger effort by United to add new service to Florida this winter from Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, New York LaGuardia and Boston

That will include service between Columbus and Pittsburgh to Fort Myers that will begin in December by United partner United Express.

United has served all four of the Florida markets from Cleveland in recent years but that service was not always daily and some of it was seasonal.

The expansion is the largest service expansion United has undertaken at Hopkins since closing its hub there in 2014.

The flights that begin in November are all scheduled to depart Hopkins in mid morning between 8:15 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. All will be assigned Boeing 737-800 equipment.

The second flights that begin in December are scheduled to depart in early to mid afternoon.

One returning flight is slated to arrive in late morning but all others are scheduled to land in Cleveland between early to late afternoon.

In an unrelated airline service change at Hopkins, Spirit Airlines will suspend in September flights to Newark Liberty Airport that it began in early July.

The last Spirit flight will depart Hopkins for Newark on Sept. 7. United will continue to provide service on the route.

An airline spokeswoman cited low demand, but said Spirit hopes to resume the service on a yet-to-be announced date.

Hopkins manager Robert Kennedy recently told a Cleveland City Council committee that the airport is expected to handle 4.1 million passengers this year, which would be well below the 10 million that passed through the airport in 2019.

Kennedy said airline industry observers expect it will take three to four years before traffic reaches 2019 levels.

He said the effects of the pandemic on air travel have been more severe than those the industry suffered after the terrorist attacks of 2001 or the Great Recession of 2008.

However, he said airport officials continue to work to upgrade the facility’s master plan. That plan will spell out planned upgrades to airport facilities, including improving boarding gates to handle larger aircraft.

Hopkins Airport Terminal Renovations Finished

June 25, 2016

A ceremony on Monday will mark the completion of a $36 million makeover of Cleveland Hopkins International Airport that includes expanded security checkpoints and will give the terminal a new look.

The renovations took more than a year to complete.

Cleveland HopkinsOther changes include more windows to provide natural light, new energy-efficient lighting  and the replacement of the air conditioning, heating and ventilation systems.

Passengers and visitors will notice new signs and a spiffing up of the ticketing and baggage claims levels.

Some parking lots received canopies to provide shelter during bad weather.

Hopkins Led Nation in Falling Air Fares

June 9, 2016

Between 2013 and 2015 the average air fare at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport has fallen more than 20 percent, which is the largest decrease in fares at any U.S. airport.

Fares to some destinations from Cleveland fell more than 40 percent, but the cost of flying to some cities either stayed about the same or showed a slight increase.

Cleveland HopkinsCleveland led such cities as Cincinnati and Memphis where the average fare fell by 16.4 percent and 12.4 percent respectively.

What all three cities have in common is that they were once major hubs for a legacy airline that later decided to dramatically downsize hub operations in those cities.

In the case of Cleveland Hopkins, it was a hub for Continental Airlines and, later, United Airlines after those two carriers merged in October 2010. United closed its Cleveland hub in 2014 although it still is among the leading airlines out of Hopkins in number of flights and non-stop destinations.

Cincinnati was once a hub for Delta Air Lines while Memphis was a hub for Northwest Airlines, which merged with Delta on Jan. 31, 2010.

In 2013, the average fare from Cleveland Hopkins was $458.09. In 2015 it was $360.96.

The largest fare declines were to Boston, $299 to $178 (40 percent); Dallas-Fort Worth, $325 to $182 (44 percent); Fort Lauderdale, Florida, $271 to $146 (46 percent); Fort Myers, Florida, $260 to $147 (43 percent); Las Vegas, $280 to $150 (43 percent); Orlando, Florida, $213 to $123 (42 percent) and Tampa, Florida, $227 to $127 (44 percent).

At the same time fares to such business centers as Chicago (O’Hare), Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York (Kennedy) and Washington (Reagan National) posted only small declines or slight increases.

Travelers to New York’s LaGuardia Airport, thought, saw their average fare rise by 21 percent from $224 to $269.

The figures were compiled by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The figures are based on base air fare and exclude the various add-on charges and fees that airlines charge for such things as checked luggage, seat assignments and priority boarding.

For most travelers, the base fare is far from the final cost of making a trip by air.

The Bureau noted that low fuel prices played a role in depressing air fares nationwide. But the vagaries of the marketplace have also acted to drive fares down, up or keep them about the same.

“We have arguably lower fares to some cities than we ever have had in the history of the airport,” Todd Payne, chief of marketing and air service development at Cleveland Hopkins, told The Plain Dealer. “Sometimes I joke with my wife, ‘We can go to dinner or we can go to Orlando.’ ”

When United closed its Cleveland hub, it ended 39 non-stop destinations from Hopkins. Service to some of those cities has since been reinstated by other carriers, including low-fare carriers Spirit and Frontier, and business traveler favorite Jet Blue.

In particular, a Plain Dealer analysis found, leisure travelers benefited the most from the churn in air carriers and services at Hopkins with fares to popular vacation destinations falling the farthest.

Competition is another significant factor in tumbling air fares. All of the routes that have seen their average base fare fall by 40 or more feature competition from two or more carriers.

In many instances, the competition is a low-fare carrier such as Spirit or Frontier.

Both of those carriers fly to Orlando as does United. Southwest and Delta have also offered occasional service between Cleveland and Orlando.

Las Vegas once had four carriers vying for passengers out of Hopkins, but United pulled out of that market last month, saying it was “no longer sustainable.”

The Plain Dealer analysis said United left the market because it could no longer price fares as much as it desired.

But there are three carriers flying between Cleveland and New York and fares on those routes have remained largely unchanged.

Billy Sanez, the vice president of marketing for FareCompare, a Dallas-based travel-planning website that tracks airfare, told the Plain Dealer that is because, in part, the New York area airports are so congested that low-fare carriers cannot turn their planes around at LaGuardia, Kennedy or Newark Liberty as quickly as they would like to in order to operate them efficiently.

“The airlines can get away with that price,” he said. “You may hear, ‘It’s too high,’ But people are still buying it. There’s high demand.”

Nonetheless, that demand has led some to believe that it is just a matter of time before a low-cost carrier enters the Cleveland-New York market and brings prices down.