Cincinnati airport looks to offset reduced flights
CINCINNATI (AP) — An airport considered vital to economic development in the Cincinnati and northern Kentucky region is striving to expand service and offset airline cutbacks that have caused concern in the region’s business community.
Rising fuel costs that have led airlines to boost fares and airline consolidations reducing the number of carriers are other factors working against the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport as it tries to attract low-cost carriers, get existing ones to expand service and persuade local residents to choose it over competing airports in Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio that are within a two-hour drive.
The Cincinnati airport had long been considered a major draw for corporations to locate in the area because of the large number of flights available when the Delta Air Lines hub there was flourishing, but that has changed in recent years. Chiquita Brands International noted last year in announcing it was moving to Charlotte, N.C., that a key factor in the decision was the greater access to foreign flights in and out of Charlotte’s airport and the assortment of those flights.
Flight cutbacks by the Cincinnati airport’s dominant carrier have drastically reduced the number of daily flights at the airport, where there are about 170 a day, compared with around 600 daily in 2005. The Cincinnati hub’s role also was diminished as Delta acquired additional hubs after merging with Northwest Airlines in 2007.
“Given what’s going on these days in the airline industry, we know we aren’t going to have huge increases ever again,” Steve Stevens, president and chief executive officer of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, said Thursday. “But we have to work on the incremental increases we can do.”
Stevens’ group has been collaborating with the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber and the Cincinnati Business Committee, a group of Fortune 500 companies in the area, to help find ways of boosting air service to the area. The groups last year commissioned a study of what businesses want and need in terms of service and those efforts are continuing.
Airport chief executive Candace McGraw also has been spreading the message in the community about the airport’s goal of “reinventing” itself to become more efficient and attractive to passengers and airlines. A $31 million project announced last year will include the reopening next month of a refurbished concourse closed in 2010 and improvements and enhancement to passenger areas.