Posts Tagged ‘Continental Airlines’

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.

Will Delta Return to CAK in September? Changes in Store for America’s Transportation Network

May 25, 2020

When Delta Airlines stopped flying to Akron-Canton Airport more than a week ago, it framed the move as a temporary suspension of service.

Airport officials said Delta’s flights between CAK and Atlanta would return in September.

But not everyone believes that and even the airport’s CEO sees turbulence ahead.

The airport, located in Green between its namesake cities, may be doing well to get back much of the service it had before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

It has lost 95 percent of its normal traffic and is down to a handful of flights that leave in the morning and return after the dinner hour.

In recent weeks there has been much speculation about what the airline industry and America’s air travel network will look like post-pandemic.

The emergency aid given to the airline industry runs out at the end of September and at that time the industry will no longer be obligated to maintain service to all cities that had it when Congress approved the assistance in March.

Some have predicted airlines will become smaller and have fewer employees and routes than they did as recently as early March.

Some believe that changes are coming to transportation generally.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont told Bloomberg TV the Monday through Friday commute by rail to New York City to go to work “may well be behind us, especially if you can do “two-thirds of your job from home in Stamford.”

Others have argued that having found employees can work from home some companies will rethink the need to maintain large expensive office facilities.

The economic downturn also has resulted in a sharp decline in revenues for state and local governments, which could mean some state-funded Amtrak corridor service may become a casualty.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation, which funded four roundtrips a day between Charlotte and Raleigh before the pandemic, is only paying for one.

In Michigan, Amtrak service has been suspended to Grand Rapids and the Detroit route is down to one daily roundtrip versus the normal three.

Similar service cuts have occurred in Illinois, Missouri and Wisconsin.

Earlier this year, Amtrak was talking about seeking additional funding from Congress that would be used to seed development of new corridors in unserved and underserved areas of the country.

Given the current situation it seems unlikely that intercity rail passenger service is going to be expanding in the next year or two.

The airline industry needed three years to recover from traffic lost following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Some predict it will take at least that long for the industry to recover from the pandemic.

Yet if telecommuting and conducting meetings online catches on as the new normal, that raises the question of whether business travel, which is where the airline industry makes a substantial amount of its money, will go back to what it was.

In the meantime, officials at Akron-Canton airport have fallen into survival mode.

Ren Camacho told a reporter for The Plain Dealer of Cleveland that his discussions with airlines these days have switched from talking about including CAK on new routes to trying to persuade them to add back service that has been suspended during the pandemic.

Before the pandemic, Akron-Canton hosted 25 flights a day provided by four airlines to Atlanta, Chicago, New York (LaGuardia), Newark, Houston, Washington (Reagan National), Charlotte, Orlando and Philadelphia.

The airport had seasonal service to Tampa and Fort Myers.

Now CAK has three flights a day with one each to Chicago, Charlotte and Philadelphia that on good days carry 20 to 25 passengers per flight.

It was worse. In late March and early April some flights into CAK carried a mere five passengers.

However, even before the pandemic hit, CAK had been struggling to attract travelers.

In 2012, Akron-Canton hosted 1.8 million passengers. Last year it hosted 834,365.

Much of CAK’s recent woes can be traced to changes happening 50 miles north at Cleveland Hopkins Airport.

For several years Continental Airlines operated a small hub at Hopkins and average air fares from Cleveland were among the highest in the nation.

But after Continental merged with United, the hub closed in June 2014 with United reducing the number of flights and destinations it had from Cleveland.

During the Continental hub days at CLE, Akron Canton Airport marketed itself as a lower cost alternative to Hopkins.

Most of those flights were provided by AirTran, which later merged with Southwest Airlines.

For awhile, Southwest continued most of the AirTran routes, but eventually it consolidated its Northeast Ohio service at Hopkins.

Akron-Canton also attracted low-cost carriers Allegiant, Frontier and Spirit.

Allegiant and Frontier ended service at CAK in favor of expanding service at Hopkins in an effort to fill the void left by service cutbacks by United.

Spirit continued to fly to CAK, but suspended its service there last month although it tentatively plans to return in July.

Some industry observers believe the future for airline service at CAK is bleak.

Transportation analyst Seth Kaplan told The Plain Dealer there’s no guarantee Delta will be back in October, or at all.

“They’re free to do whatever they want,” said Kaplan. “A lot of things aren’t going to make the cut.”

An analysis published by Forbes predicted that as a secondary airport Akron-Canton will struggle even after businesses reopen because there is likely to be less business travel and airlines will be hard pressed to make money.

The analysis drew a distinction between airports versus markets.

In a post-pandemic world, airlines will see Akron-Canton as a subset of the Northeast Ohio market based in Cleveland.

In effect, Delta has made that decision by dropping service to CAK. It presumes that whatever business there is to be had from the region around Akron and Canton can be accommodated by flights from Cleveland, which the carrier sees as its primary airport in the Northeast Ohio market.

The Forbes analysis said airlines are losing more money at secondary airports than they are at primary airports in the same market.

It concluded that although demand will largely, but not completely, return at those primary airports by the end of this year or early 2012, that is less likely to be the case for secondary airports.

The analysis said that historically airlines did well to fill 60 percent of the seats on most flights. But high demand for air travel in the past decade has led to 80 percent or more of seats being filled.

The Forbes analysis said that level of demand is unlikely even after the industry recovers from the pandemic, a process that will be measured in years and not weeks.

In time Delta might return to Akron-Canton but that remains to be seen.

In the meantime, CAK’s Camacho is eyeing using some of the $4 million in a fund established by JobsOhio that was created to help Ohio airports lure new airlines sevice.

However, at CAK, that money will be used to try to get airlines to return service they previously provided.

“The best we can do as an airport is to continue to dialogue with our airlines, to compile the cases to bring back the airlines,” Comacho said.

He said getting the local business community involved is key because corporate business travel is a massive industry.

Comacho is also working with local businesses such as Timken, Diebold and Smuckers as part of the effort to get service back.

“Where do they want to travel, either through this pandemic or post pandemic whether it’s six months from now or two years from now,” Comacho said.

CAK officials are trying to show airlines that there is enough potential business travel from CAK to merit a return of service those carriers once provided.

“The first premise for any airport is to make sure you retain existing service and then how can we build upon that, so we have to be mindful of all of those factors to ensure that we can rebound and rebound quickly,” Camacho said.

Still, he knows this won’t happen overnight.

“By the end of the year, I think we’ll see some uptick in traffic, but it’s not going to be what it was pre-pandemic. I don’t think we’ll get true air service restoration for maybe a year and a half, or two years.”

The timing of the pandemic could not have been worse for CAK. It is working to finish this year at $34 million airport terminal modernization project to spruce up a facility built in 1962.

A study commissioned by the airport last year found that it generates $1 billion in economic impact, including $663 million in direct benefits from airlines, hotels, restaurants, retail and rental car agencies.

The federal CARES Act provided direct assistance to U.S. Airports and CAK received $7.6 million, which Camacho said is enough to tide the airport over for now.

“We are optimistic that the airlines will return,” Camacho said. “The question is, ‘What does that resumed service look like?’ I wish I had a crystal ball, but I don’t.”

It may be that longer term what might save CAK is another coming of low-cost carriers looking to cash in on a finally thriving air market.

It may be that for now many people are unwilling to travel by air but you can’t enjoy a Florida beach or theme park or a Las Vegas casino online the same way you can in person.

If the fare is low enough people will return to the skies. If there is money to be made, airlines will find a way to tap make it.

In the short term businesses may have found that they don’t need offices and can conduct much of their business virtually, but once the pandemic is well in the rear view mirror CEOs might decide that there are benefits to in-person contact and having employees in the same building.

But nothing is guaranteed. The Youngstown-Warren airport was once served by United Airlines. In fact some United flights paired Youngstown with Akron-Canton.

Various airlines have come and gone and Youngstown has been without service since Allegiant pulled out in January 2018. Efforts to find another carrier have yet to pan out.

The “new normal” for air service may in the next three to five years look much different than it did as recently as February, yet that is not to say that “new normal” won’t change.

And if it does CAK officials hope to be able to take advantage of it just as they did years ago.

Until then, Camacho is looking and hoping for incremental progress.

“I think if we get to like 30 or 40 percent more traffic than where we are today, say by the end of the year, I think that’ll be a victory,” he said.

Airports Face Hard Fight to Regain Traffic

July 2, 2018

Akron-Canton Airport and Dayton International Airport have much in common.

Both serve medium-size urban areas that sit in the shadow of a much larger metropolis that hosts an airport with far more airline service.

Both have within the past year lost service from Southwest Airlines and other carriers and are struggling to attract new routes.

Both had a small measure of success last month when United Airlines began flying from both to Houston, using a United Express branded regional partner.

Each airport has daily flights to many top business centers in the eastern United States and the hub airports of the major airlines.

However, Dayton has more non-stop flights to western destinations including Denver, Dallas-Fort Worth and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

The respective airports have a limited number of flights to Florida with Allegiant providing those at Dayton and Spirit connecting the Sunshine State with Akron-Canton.

And each has other distant airports draining away passenger traffic, which makes the challenge of landing new service even more difficult.

In the case of Dayton that is John Glenn Columbus International Airport while for Akron-Canton it is Pittsburgh International Airport and Columbus.

Officials at both airports can also look back a few years and see glory days that have come and gone.

Dayton in July 1982 became the Midwest hub airport for Piedmont Airlines, a former local service carrier with most of its routes in the Southeast. That hub continued in operation after USAir took over Piedmont in August 1985.

But USAir reduced long-distance flights from Dayton in 1990 and closed the hub in January 1992, reducing the number of flights from 73 to 20.

Akron-Canton has never served as a hub for any airline but saw its passenger traffic double between 2000 and 2006 when low-fare carriers AirTran and Frontier added flights to several destinations.

But Frontier eventually left Akron-Canton for nearby Cleveland Hopkins Interntional Airport and Southwest, which acquired AirTran, eventually discontinuing most of the former AirTran routes and ended service altogether to CAK in June 2017.

That same year Allegiant Air pulled out of Akron-Canton in favor of Cleveland.

As tough as it might be for Akron-Canton and Dayton, they are better situated than airports serving Toledo and Youngstown.

Youngstown-Warren Airport lost its only scheduled airline service in January when Allegiant pulled out.

Toledo Express Airport lives in the considerable shadow of Detroit Metropolitan Airport which as a hub for Delta Airline offers flights to all corners of North American and to European, South American and Asian destinations.

Toledo has daily service to Chicago and Charlotte, North Carolina, by American Airlines regional partner American Eagle. Allegiant also flies from Toledo, although not daily.

Although airport officials at Akron-Canton and Dayton speak optimistically about airline growth, many see it differently and think any growth will be incremental.

That message was hammered home recently in Dayton when Fitch Ratings downgraded from BBB+ to BBB the bond ratings for the Dayton Airport, the first time in a decade that has occurred.

That means it may cost the airport more to issue bonds for airport improvements.

But it also reflects a concern by analysts about Dayton’s ability to manage costs, meaningfully grow its customer base and compete with larger nearby airports.

At the same time, Fitch changed its rating outlook for the airport to stable. It had been negative since late 2016.

Airline traffic at Dayton continues to slide just as it has at Akron-Canton in the past year.

Passenger boardings at Dayton fell 8 percent in 2017 to 950,620. Overall traffic has fallen by 24 percent since 2009.

Airport officials attribute much of the decline to the loss of Southwest service.

Dayton’s director of aviation, Terry Slaybaugh, believes the key to building traffic is to focus on meeting demand for business trips because unlike leisure passengers, business travelers are less willing to drive significant distances to catch a flight.

Dayton has ramped up its marking to the business community.

Paul Lewis, vice president of policy at the Eno Center for Transportation in Washington said that a city as large as Dayton will always have demand for flights to such major markets as New York City, Chicago, Atlanta and Dallas,

But Lewis said industry consolidation has led to fewer airlines, which reduces the need for as many airline hubs, particularly in smaller markets.

There was a time when airports such as Dayton and Akron-Canton could count on attracting large number of leisure travelers because of the flights they offered by low-fare airlines such as Frontier, Allegiant and Spirit.

Akron-Canton capitalized on that with the marketing slogan “a better way to go.”

For a time, fares from Cleveland tended to be higher because it was a hub for Continental Airlines and, later, United.

But after United closed the hub in 2014, the low-fare carriers began expanding in Cleveland in droves, which reflected a trend of low-fare carriers forsaking medium-size cities for larger cities.

Akron-Canton and Youngstown have seen those carriers sharply increase service from Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

Leisure air service also has taken off at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport and from Columbus.

Slaybaugh said Dayton is working with its existing carriers to increase flights and bring in larger aircraft providing first class, business and economy service.

In the meantime, both Dayton and Akron-Canton have given their terminals and parking lots a face lift in an effort to provide more passenger convenience.

But fares and availability of flight options still drive traffic.

“If you buy a legacy ticket, we’re usually cheaper,” Slaybaugh said. “That’s something that still drives traffic. But now with some of the service changes, we know people are leaving.”

Whereas once Cincinnati had some of the highest average airfares in the country, it now has some of the lowest.

That has come during a time when air fares on average increased in Dayton to the point where they are larger than those at Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Akron-Canton.

As Ohio’s medium size airports battle to win back some of the traffic they once had, they also find themselves with more space than they need for the passengers they have.

Some parking lots at Akron-Canton have been closed, but have found a new use.

Kane Logistics, which provides warehousing, distribution and freight services for a number of companies, is temporarily using the lots to store trailers.

Transatlantic Air Service Resumes in Cleveland

May 5, 2018

Airline service from Cleveland to Europe returned early Friday morning when Wow Air inaugurated flights to Reykjavik, Iceland.

The first WOW flight from Iceland landed at Cleveland Hopkins a few minutes before its scheduled 11:30 p.m. scheduled arrival time on Thursday night.

Cleveland has not had airline service to Europe since a flight to London ended in 2009. Continental Airlines once flew non-stop from Cleveland to London and Paris.

Airport officials greeted the WOW flight – an Airbus 321 – with a water cannon salute from two first trucks. That is a traditional greeting for inaugural flights.

The first WOW flight from Cleveland to Reykjavik departed about a half-hour late.

Many who fly on WOW are expected to connect to other flights headed to destinations in Europe.

The inaugural flight included two college students headed for study in Spain, a family going to Israel and a couple traveling to Paris. The inaugural flight had 190 of its 200 seats filled.

The airline treated the passengers to cake, balloons and music. “It opens up a new world to us,” said Airport Director Robert Kennedy. “People who didn’t think they could fly to Europe in the past now can.”

Icelandair plans to begin flying between Cleveland and Reykjavik on May 16.

If the experience of the inaugural flight is any guide, some passengers will travel a long distance to catch a flight from Cleveland to Iceland.

The aforementioned couple going to Paris flew to Cleveland from St. Louis on Southwest Airlines because making a Southwest-WOW connection was less expensive than flying from Missouri.

A couple headed for Spain drove from Cincinnati, although they plan to return directly there when WOW inaugurate service to Cincinnati on May 9.

Cleveland is one of six cities in the United States that will host WOW and Icelandair as both carriers expand their presence in North America.

Airport officials expect the Iceland flights to bring 30,000 visitors to the city annually.

The first flight to Cleveland from Reykjavik was about half full and arriving passengers were given a goodie bag by Destination Cleveland. It included sunglasses, bottled water and a map.