Posts Tagged ‘Ohio 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.

Bill Will Help Airports Raise Money

January 4, 2021

Ohio lawmakers have approved legislation that is designed to enable the state’s airports to work with businesses to attract air service as well as improve airport facilities.

The legislation allows regional airport authorities, port authorities and municipal corporations to create an airport development district that can work with businesses within a five-mile radius to generate revenue for airport infrastructure and other expenses, including offering incentives to attract new airline service.

The legislation is seen as being particularly useful for the establishment of such districts surrounding Akron-Canton Airport, Akron Fulton Municipal Airport, Cincinnati Municipal Lunken Airport, Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, and Dayton International Airport.

Businesses will be permitted under the law to make contributions that can be paid in lump sums or as assessments on property.

However, those contributions will be voluntary. There is legal authority for a development district to impose a tax.

Akron-Canton Airport is expected to use revenue raised by a district to seek airline service.

The airport has lost flights in the past few years, including those operated by Southwest and Delta airlines.

In other instances, low fare carriers Frontier and Allegiant moved flights that had been serving  Akron-Canton to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

Airport officials have said one of their more immediate goals is to try to get Delta to resume flying the route between Akron-Canton and Atlanta.

Delta suspended that route in May, citing steep passenger declines due to the CVOID-19 pandemic.

Akron-Canton Airport Lauded by TSA

December 21, 2020

Akron-Canton Airport has been named one of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s 2020 airports of the year.

The airport located in Green won the designation in its size category.

TSA officials cited the airport’s efforts to improve its workplace during a challenging year.

That included the TSA officers assigned to CAK launching the airport’s “It Starts With Me” campaign that emphasized personal responsibility and accountability in the workplace.

Winning airports were chosen based on the result of a federal employee survey and a focus group that centered on improving customer service and the work environment.

Other airports honored included George Bush International Airport in Houston, Eugene Airport in Oregon and Miami International Airport.

Akron-Canton also became this month the first Ohio airport to receive a global health accreditation from the Airports Council International, which ensures the facility is following certain measures to mitigate health risks.

That includes cleaning and disinfection, physical distancing, staff protection, physical layout, passenger communications and passenger facilities.

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.

 

CAK Seeking Funds to Win Back Air Service

June 17, 2020

Akron-Canton Airport continues to see just three flights to three destinations and is seeking funding to try to entice airlines to reinstate service suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Airport officials are hoping to get a portion of the $10 million fund established by JobsOhio to regain air service lost during the pandemic.

In recent weeks, CAK has averaged 100 passengers a day on single daily flights to Philadelphia, Charlotte and Chicago (O’Hare).

Airport President Ren Camacho said in a presentation to the Stark County Port Authority that local matching funds are needed in order to tap funds from the JobOhio air service restoration fund.

If Akron-Canton can secure $100,000 in local money it would be matched by $400,000 from JobsOhio.

“Travel is slowly resuming,” Camacho said. “We are limited by capacity at this point.”

Before the pandemic, CAK averaged 25 flights a day. Last year the airport handled 830,000 passengers, an average of more than 2,200 a day.

This year, the Akron-Canton Airport is on a pace to lose $2.9 million although some of that will be offset by $7.6 million from the federal CARES Act.

Camacho wants local chambers of commerce and other economic development groups in the Akron-Canton area to make “airline incentive partnership” donations.

CAK officials are hoping to entice back service to New York (LaGuardia), Atlanta, Houston and Orlando that existed before the pandemic began.

The local and JobsOhio funding could be used for seat and revenue guarantees and marketing dollars.

Thus far no local agency has agreed to donate any funds to CAK.

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.

Delta to Suspend CAK Service Through September

May 11, 2020

Delta Airlines will suspend service to Akron-Canton Airport between May 15 and Sept. 30.

The carrier said it has won U.S. Department of Transportation approval to suspend flights to CAK and nine other airports after successfully arguing that they are part of a larger market that Delta plans to continue serving from another airport within that market.

In the case of Akron-Canton the larger market is Cleveland.

Akron-Canton airport officials sought to dispute that in April, telling DOT in a letter that CAK should be considered to be its own market and not part of the Cleveland market.

“If given the option to pick either CAK or CLE – but not required by any obligation to separately serve the different markets of both, the public served by CAK will undoubtedly suffer by immediate or significantly greater loss of service with the order as written,” airport officials wrote to DOT on April 2.

The letter was referring to a clause in the CARES Act requiring airlines to serve all current markets as a condition of receiving federal emergency aid.

However, DOT ruled that airports in close proximity could be considered to be part of one market.

The CAK letter to DOT said suspending flights to CAK would cause “a real practical loss of air service,” particularly to areas south of Akron and along the Interstate Route 77 corridor.

Akron-Canton officials also expressed fear of losing service and even losing long-term viability if airlines are allowed to treat CAK as part of the Cleveland market.

Delta flies from Akron-Canton to Atlanta. Until the pandemic began, it operated three flights a day between CAK and Atlanta.

One of those flights was flown by a Boeing 737 operated by Delta while the other two flights operated with regional jet equipment flown under contract by another company using the Delta Connection brand.

At one time in the past five years, Delta operated four roundtrips a day with MD80 jets between the two airports.

In early April, service on the CAK-Atlanta route was reduced to sometimes two flights a day and then to one flight daily that arrives in late evening and returns the next morning.

On May 2 that flight transitioned from a Delta 737 flight to a regional jet Delta Connection flight.

Delta flies to more destinations from Cleveland, but since the onset of the pandemic has reduced its Cleveland service to primarily serving Atlanta.

Lisa Dalpiaz, CAK’s director of marketing and air service development, said Delta plans to resume serving Akron-Canton.

“The suspension is specifically tied to their financial situation due to the pandemic, and not on performance of the route.”

A Delta news release said the service cuts at CAK and nine other airports are due to passenger traffic being “significantly reduced.”

Delta also said it would cut its schedules by 85 percent in the second quarter of 2020.

In the meantime, Akron-Canton continues to see service, albeit at reduced levels, provided by American Airlines to Philadelphia and Charlotte, and by United Airlines to Chicago.

In recent weeks those carriers have been operating one flight a day from CAK to those destinations.

Dalpiaz said American, which serves Akron-Canton with its American Eagle brand service using regional jets, is expected to reinstate some service in July.

Before the pandemic American also flew from CAK to Reagan Washington National Airport, Chicago O’Hare Airport and New York’s LaGuardia Airport.

Akron-Canton Airport is considered essential infrastructure during the pandemic and has remained open, but it has lost 95 percent of its normal passenger traffic there.

Delta is Akron-Canton’s third largest carrier, handling 20 percent of the airport’s 835,000 passengers in 2019.

Delta is also suspending service to Chicago Midway; Oakland, Hollywood Burbank and Long Beach in California; Providence, Rhode Island; Manchester, New Hampshire; Westchester County and Stewart International in New York; and Newport News/Williamsburg in Virginia.

In an unrelated development, the Akron-Canton Airport will pay a local artist $5,000 to create a piece for a new section of terrazzo floor planned for the airport’s atrium.

Artists or teams can contact the airport administration office for project details and requirements. Proposals are due June 5 with the winner being named the next week.

The design is part of a $155,000 project to replace the atrium’s current terrazzo flooring beyond the security checkpoint.

The artwork will be within a 2,700-square-foot section of atrium floor near an existing compass and be installed in October.

The request for proposals said the artist will have the option to retain the compass or remove it.

The winning design must represent a “sense of place” to Akron and Canton.

The elements of the design should have thoughtful design, efficiency, artistic harmony, a blend of form and function and an element of wayfinding while contributing to the architectural and cultural heritage of the region including local customs, styles or cultural attitudes.

How About a Heritage Jet?

April 17, 2017

You’re heard of the heritage locomotives of Norfolk Southern that pay tribute to its predecessor railroads by adorning them with a livery once used by those fallen flag companies.

Some airlines also have painted select planes in heritage liveries that pay tribute to predecessor companies.

Among them is American Airlines, which has painted a few jets in liveries that pay tribute to predecessor companies that it either acquired outright or which were merged with a company that American merged with.

Shown is the Piedmont Airlines tribute jet after landing at John Glenn Columbus International Airport upon arriving on a flight from Phoenix.

The original Piedmont operated primarily in the southeast United States as a local service carrier between 1948 and 1989 when it was acquired by USAir.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Piedmont had a hub operation at Dayton International Airport.

USAir, which later renamed itself US Airways, was acquired by American in 2013, although the two carriers continued to operate with separate identities until October 2015.

The Piedmont retro jet wears the Piedmont livery that the carrier’s planes bore until the merger with USAir.

The aircraft type was featured on the tails of some Piedmont aircraft. However, Piedmont never operated an Airbus jet. Its fleet in its final years consisted of Boeing 737s and a few 727s.

It is noteworthy that for a time Norfolk Southern had an ownership stake in Piedmont.

The Piedmont name remains in use for a regional carrier once known as Henson Airlines, a feeder carrier that today operates flights for American Eagle.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Port Columbus Airport Renamed for John Glenn

July 20, 2016

Port Columbus International Airport has a new name, having been recently renamed after former Ohio aviator, astronaut and Senator John Glenn.

ColumbusGlenn, 94, attended the ceremony making the new name. Although it won’t be official until September, the airport east of downtown Columbus has already begun to called itself John Glenn Columbus International Airport.

Glenn, who was the first American to orbit the earth, said during the renaming ceremony that as a boy he would ask his parents to take him to Port Columbus so he could watch planes land and takeoff.

He was 8 when the airport opened in 1929 and grew up 70 miles east of Columbus in New Concord, Ohio.

Glenn said he had many many teary departures and reunions at the original airport terminal during his World War II days.

After the war, Glenn and his wife, Annie, kept a small Beechcraft plane at Port Columbus, but he gave up flying once he reached age 90.

Although not apparent, the Port Columbus name has a railroad connection.

When the airport opened, it was the eastern terminus of Transcontinental Air Transport.

Travelers would ride an overnight Pennsylvania Railroad train between New York to Columbus and fly on a TAT Ford Tri-motor plane from Columbus to Waynoka, Oklahoma, where they boarded a Santa Fe passenger train. After disembarking in Clovis, New Mexico, they would finish their journey by air to Los Angeles.

After a series of mergers, TAT eventually became Trans World Airlines.