It’s a tough time for the airlines, with passenger and cargo traffic down and projections of fewer air travelers this summer as the nation struggles to recover from a recession.
That makes it a challenge for airports to hold onto the air service they have, much less be able to persuade airlines to introduce new service.
“It’s very, very tough to expand air service when fewer people are flying,” said aviation consultant Michael Boyd, president of Boyd Group Inc. in Evergreen, Colo. “The airlines are cutting capacity.”
Leisure travel drops when the economy dips, and some companies reduce business travel expenses by having executives conduct meetings by video conferences, said Iftikhar Ahmad, Dayton’s aviation director.
Officials of Dayton International Airport and other airports regularly talk with airline executives in hopes of getting new flight service, as well as maintaining relations to keep existing service.
“It is harder to bring in more service,” Ahmad said. “If people are not flying, what is the air service for?”
Still, Dayton airport management aggressively courts new service and offers airlines an incentive package as a lure, Ahmad said.
He declined to give details, as his airport competes with those of Columbus, Cincinnati and Indianapolis, but said that airlines can get breaks for a year or two from fees and other charges for landings, ticket counters, office space, baggage belts and gate areas. The amount of incentives would depend on how much business an airline could bring in and what destinations it promised, Ahmad said.
Airlines are cutting flights in response to the drop in passenger traffic.
Airline schedules for the upcoming third quarter of 2009 show a 14 percent reduction in scheduled domestic departures, according to the Air Transport Association, an industry organization.
A highlight of 2008 for Dayton International Airport was Air Canada’s decision to resume nonstop service between Dayton and Toronto, a gateway for southwestern Ohio business travelers to other international destinations including Tokyo.
But also in 2008, as increasing aviation fuel prices took a toll, AirTran Airways ended the nonstop Dayton-to-Las Vegas service it had begun in August 2007.
In March, the softening economy prompted Northwest Airlines to put on hold its plan to offer a nonstop daily flight beginning May 2 between Dayton and Memphis, Tenn.
Delta Air Lines, which has merged with Northwest and is coordinating the blending of flight schedules, has indicated it might revive that plan
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