Will Jet Blue land at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport?

Low-cost carriers' passenger rates on upswing

HEBRON, Ky. – More flights and an increased passenger load are giving the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport officials more to entice other carriers, which are keeping an eye on how low-cost carriers are thriving at the once-puttering airport.

After nearly a decade of a continuous downturn, CVG has seen an uptick in passengers and credits that to the growing low-cost carriers’ flight options, said the airport’s CEO Candace McGraw.

“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.

More bluntly:

“Other airlines are watching what’s going on here,” said Steve Arlinghaus, Kenton County Judge Executive. 

One of those other carriers observing CVG’s numbers could be Jet Blue, he said, adding the airport has four open gates.

“In next 12 months, you’ll see Jet Blue here," he said, adding that the airport does not have any current agreement with the low-cost carrier.

However, he continued, the airport's lease agreement is holding the airport back.

The airport’s lease agreement with airlines, which expires next year, has held the airport back from luring other airlines to CVG with financial incentives to airlines, Arlinghaus said.

That’s because 60 percent of all travelers are business travelers, according to Arlinghaus.

“Profits come from businesses – if businesses didn’t get such sweet deals, maybe our fares would go down,” he said. 

“We’re battling against ourselves… Competition is going to make it happen,” he said.

Once the lease is up, he said, the airport could be a “for-profit” business and make their own deals, making it easier to bring in more low-cost carriers, ramping up the rivalry and in turn lowering ticket prices.

As low-cost carriers enter the market, competition ensues, said McGraw, who, with the airport board, adjourned Monday night’s meeting to go into executive session to discuss the terms of the new lease agreement currently in the works.

“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.”

According to the airport board’s Air Service Committee’s report, monthly seats trends have been down at CVG for nine years. In December 2014, the report shows a 13-percent upswing, compared to a -15 percent in December 2012.

In June 2014, there were 278,829 passengers, which is 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

More flights are on the horizon.

Allegiant, which recently announced two new flights to Ft. Lauderdale and Phoenix beginning this fall, aren’t the only low-cost carriers giving CVG a boost in passengers.

In less than a year, Allegiant will have grown from four flights a week to 18.

Frontier, which started with one flight to Denver, now has 12 flights to Denver and three to New Jersey. In September, the low-cost carrier will launch four weekly flights to Washington, D.C.’s Dulles Airport.

Ultimate Air Shuttle, which debuted its service last summer at CVG, will also add a Chicago Midway flight, five days a week.

For more stories and photos by Jessica Noll on issues impacting Northern Kentucky, visit http://www.wcpo.com/noll or follow her on Twitter @JessicaWCPO.


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