Thanks largely to low-cost airlines, CVG getting major lift in number of passengers

CVG flights to many cities see double-digit gain
Posted at 5:00 AM, May 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-25 07:34:39-04

HEBRON, Ky. -- New passengers are taking advantage of lower fares at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, flocking to cities such as Los Angeles, Phoenix and San Francisco in droves.

Those destinations and others -- such as Houston, Newark, Tampa and Denver -- have seen double-digit drops in ticket prices, and, consequently, double-digit increases in the numbers of travelers.

Nearly 100 more people a day, for example, are flying from CVG to LAX in Los Angeles, where the average round-trip has decreased 30 percent year-over-year. Markets such as Phoenix and New Orleans, where fares are down 46 percent -- the biggest drops among 15 key markets -- are seeing nearly 83 and 45 more passengers a day, respectively.

Airport officials say that's proof fare declines are stimulating significant passenger traffic in key markets. And CVG officials say this is new traffic -- not stolen seats from legacy carriers such as American Airlines, Delta and United.

"If you look at the load factors (passenger capacity) on Frontier and the load factors on Delta in these same markets, they're all improving," said Bobby Spann, CVG’s vice president of external affairs. "This is brand new traffic to the airport; it's traffic we're bringing out of Dayton, Louisville, Lexington, Indianapolis."

Average airfares have dropped steadily at CVG over the years. The airport now ranks No. 42 nationally, compared to No. 22 in 2015 and No. 1 the previous year. Ticket prices have bettered Dayton three quarters in a row and are nearing Columbus.

That's thanks in large part to low-cost carriers Frontier and Allegiant. They started service in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

"This is very important (when it comes to) controlling some of our leakage that we've dealt with," Spann said.

Frontier added three weekly flights to San Francisco in 2016 and bumped that route to daily earlier this year. The average fare there has dropped 22 percent; there are nearly 80 new passengers a day.

Frontier flies seasonally to Houston. Fares are down 32 percent; around 63 new passengers a day fly that route.

In 2016, Allegiant added Newark as a destination; fares there are down 20 percent. There are nearly 61 new passengers each day. Tampa is a Frontier stop, and Denver and Philadelphia are also key cities for the airline.

"Across the board … just really impressive stimulation factors," Spann said.

Data lags by several months. The report is based off fares from the fourth quarter 2016, so some cities could see further improvements, such as Baltimore, New York-LaGuardia and Denver.

Southwest Airlines will start service June 4 with 55 weekly flights: to Baltimore three times a day, and Chicago-Midway five times a day.

Frontier launched daily service to LaGuardia in April. Allegiant will add Denver to its repertoire starting June 2, with flights three times weekly in the summer season and twice weekly in the fall.

CVG, in 2016, experienced its best year in terms of passenger volume since 2005. More than 675,000 new local travelers flew compared to the previous year.