Posts Tagged ‘United Airlines’

NE Ohio Gets New Washington Air Service

December 21, 2020

Northeast Ohio is getting more airline service to Washington.

American Airlines plans to reinstate service from Cleveland and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport next month.

In the meantime United Airlines launched last week new service to Washington Dulles International Airport from the Akron-Canton Airport.

In both instances, the flights are operated by partner airlines flying regional jets under the American Eagle and United Express brands respectively.

Cleveland has had only sporadic service to Reagan National since March due to COVID-19 pandemic related flight reductions.

At the time the pandemic began American Eagle was flying three roundtrips a day between the two airports and planning a fourth.

The United Express service between Akron-Canton and Dulles had been scheduled to launch last May but was delayed due to the pandemic.

The service was intended to replace flights to and from Newark Liberty International Airport. The Dulles and Newark airports are both hub airports for United.

The carrier is operating a single daily roundtrip that leaves CAK in mid morning and returns in early evening.

American Eagle plans one roundtrip between Cleveland and Reagan National leaving in early morning and returning late at night. The service begins Jan. 5.

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 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.

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.

Flights to Nowhere

May 5, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has all but halted air travel in the United States. Airlines have parked hundreds of planes as bookings have fallen by more than 90 percent since March.

Industry observers and even some airline executives have predicted the road to recovery will be long and slow. Some predict once the pandemic has passed that airlines will be smaller and employ fewer people.

How long it will take for air travel to recover remains to be seen, but following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, it took two years before air travel rebounded to what it was before the attacks.

In the meantime scenes such as these shown here at Cleveland Hopkins Airport of parked planes with nowhere to fly will be common.

United Airlines has a maintenance base in Cleveland and thus is using Hopkins to store jets removed from active service.

Todd Dillon made these images last Sunday. He spotted the jets on Saturday while traveling to the unofficial Akron Railroad Club Dave McKay Day outing in Berea and returned the next day to document them.

Most of these planes are parked near the dormant Concourse D at Hopkins, which has been out of service since United closed its Cleveland hub in 2014.

Concourse D had largely been used for United Express flights using regional jet equipment.

Most of the jets visible in these images are Boeing 737 aircraft but a host of Embraer regional jets can be seen lined up beyond the nose of the 737 in the foreground.

Photographs by Todd Dillon

Airlines Don’t Expect Rapid Growth When Pandemic Social Distancing Restrictions are Eased

April 20, 2020

A Spirit Airlines Airbus 320 arrives in Cleveland after a flight from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Airlines are expecting low passenger counts even after the COVID-19 pandemic social distancing restrictions are eased or even removed.

Although state officials in recent days have spoken about easing their social distancing orders and allowing some businesses to reopen, airline industry observers expect the demand for air travel to continue to lag.

Some have predicted airlines will become smaller and have fewer employees.

The CEO of Southwest Airlines has reportedly approached his company’s labor unions about making concessions on wages and benefits once the emergency air from the federal government is exhausted and if traffic doesn’t immediately rebound.

Southwest, which is viewed as one of the nation’s best-managed airlines, has never imposed pay cuts or layoffs in its 49-year history.

In a recent message to employees, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz said the carrier had fewer than 200,000 passengers in the first two weeks of April compared to more than 6 million during the same period in April 2019.

United expects to carry fewer passengers this May than it did on a single day in May 2019 and to slash flights by 90 percent of the normal schedule.

Munoz expects the return of business after social restrictions are eased to be slow because many will remain concerned about the pandemic and the health risks of commercial air travel.

A writer for The Motley Fool, a financial investment firm, predicts it will take at least two years or longer for the airline industry to the level of traffic it had before the pandemic began.

The writer, who said he is optimistic that the airline industry will survive its economic headwinds, expects air travel demand to be muted for the rest of 2020.

Some carriers might not survive the economic downturn and the fate of others hinges on how quickly the travel market recovers.

The federal emergency aid ends on Sept. 30 and worker layoffs could follow.

United’s management has told its employees to expect a smaller workforce as early as Oct. 1.

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said bookings for travel later in the summer have shown a slight rise and there may be a gradual recovery in the third and fourth quarters of 2020.

The conditions attached to the federal emergency airline aid has put some carriers in a dilemma.

They don’t want to offer the minimal levels of service that accepting the aid requires, particularly continuing to serve the airports they flew to before the pandemic struck.

The industry apparently thought that the U.S. Department of Transportation would allow them to temporarily drop numerous markets.

But DOT has not been inclined to allow that and has denied all but one of the requests for low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines for exemptions to the serve all airports rules.

Allegiant Air and Sun Country Airlines are also blanching at DOT’s position.

DOT has said that so long as airlines keep one flight to each city they’re in compliance with the law. The flights need not be daily.

Many airlines have fulfilled this requirement by ending all but one flight to some cities.

But discount carriers such as Spirit are unable to reduce 90 percent of their schedules and still meet the law’s intent because they favor typically once a day point-to-point service rather than flying to giant connecting hubs with multiple flights throughout the day.

Low-cost airlines say most of their passengers are leisure travelers and that market is virtually non-existent right now.

A recent story in the Los Angeles Times said that those still flying include airline workers going home after work shifts, medical staff traveling to regions hit hard by COVID-19 outbreaks, some business travelers, and people going to help family members affected by the pandemic and social distancing measures.

Some travelers are also heading home after having vacations, school terms and work assignments cut short by the pandemic.

The Times report said those flying in recent weeks described the experience as a mixture of anxiety over the increased risk of being exposed to the virus and amazement at near empty airport terminals and airplane cabins.

Airline officials say it is difficult to determine which passengers aboard their flights are flying out of necessity versus leisure travelers.

Far less affected by the pandemic have been cargo carriers that are operating pretty much their scheduled flights.

In some instances, passenger airlines are using their planes to fly cargo.

Food service aboard flights, even in first class, has been eliminated or reduced to box meals in order to minimize contact between passengers and flight attendants.

With so few passengers flying, there is plenty of room for those aboard to spread out as a form of social distancing.

“They pretty much sit there and watch movies on their computer and sleep because they have an entire row to themselves,” said Rock Salomon, an American Airlines flight attendant based in Boston. “My last trip to Phoenix had less than 20 passengers on each leg.”

Although airlines are not mandating passengers to wear gloves or masks, they have encouraged that practice while allowing flight attendants to wear them while interacting with passengers.

In the meantime, another battle has begin over refunding canceled tickets.

Airlines are generally offering passenger who cancel flights during the pandemic travel vouchers rather than cash refunds.

Three U.S. senators issued a statement saying the industry is sitting on $10 billion in travel vouchers.

The senators said airlines have been obfuscating the right of passengers to receive a cash refund by offering travel vouchers as a default option and requiring passengers to take burdensome steps to request refunds.

New agency Reuters said it reviewed the responses the senators received from the nation’s major airlines as to their refund practices and found that most carriers did not share the total value of the travel vouchers and credits they have issued during the pandemic.

Some carriers said they are following U.S. Department of Transportation guidelines which require cash refunds if an airline cancels a flight.

But only Allegiant and Spirit indicated they are offering cash refunds as a first option for passengers who voluntarily cancel their tickets.

Low-cost carrier Sun Country said offering cash refunds to all passengers who cancel their reservations “would put the company’s future at risk.”

American Airlines said more than 90 percent of its passengers who were offered a refund for flights the company itself canceled chose that option over a travel voucher.

Some of the travel vouchers that passengers who do not specifically request a refund are being issued will expire within a year.

Air Service to New York Suspended

April 15, 2020

Airline service between Northeast Ohio and New York City has been suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic.

All three carriers flying between Cleveland and New York’s three major airports, American, Delta and United, have dropped that service temporarily.

On a normal day the three carriers operate more than 20 flights a day.

Service also has been suspended between Akron-Canton Airport and New York.

American had flown once day between CAK and LaGuardia and United had flown to Newark Liberty International Airport.

However, United had planned to shift its Newark flights from Akron-Canton to Washington Dulles Airport in May.

Travelers can still fly to New York, but will need to make a connection en route.

United has indicated it will resume service between Cleveland and Newark in May while Delta plans to restore service to LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports in early June.

American plans to restart flights between Cleveland and LaGuardia in early June.

At the same time American plans to resume service between Cleveland and Reagan Washington National Airport that has been suspended during the pandemic.

In a related development, the U.S. Department of Transportation has announced that Northeast Ohio airports will receive emergency aid from the CARES Act.

Hopkins Airport is to receive $46.3 million while Akron-Canton Airport will get $7.6 million.

Cleveland’s Burke Lakefront Airport will receive $157,000.

Other northern Ohio airports and the aid they receive include Akron Fulton Airport, $69,000; Erie-Ottawa Airport, $69,000; Lorain County Airport, $69,000; Kent State University Airport, $30,000; Portage County Airport, $30,000’ and Put-in-Bay Airport, $20,000.

In the meantime Hopkins Airport is allowing passengers to park in all of its parking facilities for free. It is unclear how long the free parking will last.