Smaller Airports Losing Service as Airlines Eliminate Short Flights
In the last five years, the number of scheduled flights at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport has fallen 63%—one of the more dramatic examples of how financial pressures are reshaping the airline industry. A new study by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Inspector General office found that there are about 3,000 fewer short-haul flights of less than 500 miles.
Rising fuel costs and economic uncertainty have prompted airlines to focus on flying bigger planes that can carry more passengers, cutting capacity to match demand and reduce the number of empty seats, and consolidation, which has given the five biggest carriers 85% of the U.S. market. Profit-wise, their efforts have been largely successful; the industry as a whole has made a turnaround from losing more than $9 billion in 2002 to earning about $5 billion last year. The downside is it’s getting more difficult for travelers to fly into small and mid-size cities. There are 61 airports in the United States that have lost at least half their carriers since 2008. In addition to Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Memphis, Tenn.’s airports have seen large reductions in service, with 40% and 36% fewer flights, respectively. latimes.com