Discount carriers' expansions could open door to further growth at CVG

Vacation routes could lead to business growth

HEBRON, Ky. – New flights coming to the airport include routes to Vegas, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, great for vacationers, but what about the business traveler, the mainstay of the economy?

New low-cost carriers like Frontier and Allegiant, while now largely competing for leisure travelers, are leaving the door open to future flights through other carriers, important as the airport tries to regain some of the service it has lost over the last few years.

“All boats rise in a high tide,” Michael Mann, vice president of AAA Corporate Travel Service, said. “It’s an upside for everybody.”

How these new carriers are received could influence the future of CVG, said Doug Moorman, an economic development consultant and former Chamber executive.

“Our travelers, both business and leisure, are taking advantage of these services. They are filling the planes, which has not always been the case,” Moorman said. “The flying community is taking advantage of the new carriers – there’s a market here for them.”

“We are trying to have a balancing act. It’s the best of both worlds—low-cost flights, more destinations, more direct flights, while maintaining a daily international flight to Paris,” Northern Kentucky Chamber President Trey Grayson said.

“The strategy in the short run seems to be working,” he said.

READ MORE: Frontier adds 5 new flights at CVG

All eyes on CVG

New flights and a steady stream of passengers are important components to attracting businesses to the region, Johnna Reeder, president and CEO of REDI Cincinnati, said.

“It’s critical to have an airport that delivers a variety of flights and have them be affordable, that’s what businesses who are looking to grow and expand here demand," she said. "Having a strong and evolving airport only enhances our abilities to sell Greater Cincinnati,” she said.

The airport once claimed four direct flights to strategic European destinations, and is now down to only one, to Paris. Maybe, new competitors will encourage carriers that offer international flights to look again at CVG.

“In this case, what they’re seeing is consumers in the Greater Cincinnati area are choosing to fly with somebody aside from Delta,” Moorman said. “Hopefully it gives international carriers reason to give CVG a fresh look,” he said.

An upward trend is what the airport’s CEO Candace McGraw is banking on. After nearly a decade of a continuous downturn, CVG has seen an uptick in passengers and she credits that to the growing low-cost carriers’ flight options. 

“The early success of Frontier and Allegiant show that the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky community is ready to support low-cost carriers entering the market at CVG. This gives other carriers considering CVG the confidence that their operations can also be successful,” she said.

READ MORE: Is Jet Blue on the horizon for CVG?

“With more competition and increased supply, ticket costs are decreasing. Local origin and destination passengers have increased in 15 of the last 16 months. This is the first time we have seen origin passengers increase since 2007,” McGraw said.

Monthly trends have been down at CVG for nine years. But in December 2013, the airport showed a 13-percent upswing, compared to a 15 percent decline in December 2012.

In June 2014, there were 278,829 passengers, a 2.3-percent increase from June 2013; and in May 2014 there was a 4.3-percent increase in origin passengers from May 2013.

June 2014 passengers for low-cost carriers:
• Allegiant: 6,459
• Frontier: 8,204

READ MORE: Allegiant to add more flights to CVG roster

But while new low-cost carriers are taking flight and airfares overall at CVG have decreased by nearly 17 percent since 2000, average airfares at CVG remain among the highest in the nation.

The most recent report from according to the Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics found the average airfare at CVG totaled $518.09 – second highest in the nation in the second quarter of the year. Only airfares at Huntsville International Airport ran higher at $547.49.

Comparing average airfares at CVG with those other nearby regional airports – Columbus, Dayton and Louisville – finds Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky the most expensive in 2013 – well above average airfares of $364 in Dayton, $381 in Columbus and $401 in Louisville.

READ MORE: CVG on the cheap… or is it?

The airline that launched its inaugural flight from CVG in May 2013 will offered promotional one-way fares as low as $14.99, but they are no longer available.  

In addition to the routes announced Thursday, Frontier also offers nonstop, low-fare service to Cancun, Mexico; Denver, Colo.; Trenton, N.J. and Washington, D.C.

Within 18 months, Frontier plans to offer 41 flights per week to 10 destinations.


For more stories and photos by Jessica Noll on issues impacting Northern Kentucky, visit or follow her on Twitter @JessicaWCPO.


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