FOX19 Investigates: Airport CEO finally speaks... on-stage - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

FOX19 Investigates: Airport CEO finally speaks... on-stage

Posted: Updated: March 13, 2013 12:01 AM
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, KY (FOX19) -

Although she wouldn't talk to FOX19 for our investigation a couple of weeks ago into CVG's plummeting passenger numbers, airport CEO Candace McGraw appeared on-stage Tuesday at Northern Kentucky University.

McGraw began by addressing what she calls "misconceptions" about CVG. While acknowledging her airport has some of the highest fares in the nation, she argued that CVG's website offers good deals on tickets.

"But one of the misconceptions out there is that airfares are high because the airport's costs must be high," McGraw told the crowd. "I have to say, we have one of the most reasonable cost structures in the airport community."

Airport analysts FOX19 interviewed for our original story never raised that as a cause of CVG's high airfares for passengers. They tell us it's a legacy of the "fortress hub" that Delta built at CVG and the airline's penchant for dramatically lowering fares to drive-out low-cost airlines when they arrive at CVG to set-up shop.

McGraw stunned the moderator and some in the crowd tonight when she revealed that 70% of CVG's passengers are business travelers. However, she said she's working to add more vacation travelers, pointing out there was a 120% increase in chartered jets for vacation destinations last year. These chartered jets are used by companies offering vacation packages to middle class folks in the Tri-State, not the kind of chartered jet business moguls fly in.

"What we were is not what we're going to be in the future," McGraw said, after the audience was asked what CVG's top priority should be. "So I actually agree with the responses about our primary mission is to reposition ourselves. I think that's part of trying to grow our existing carriers and attracting low-cost carriers."

As FOX19 revealed in our initial report, the airport board has told McGraw her top task is improving air service, according to the performance evaluation we obtained.

She was successful this year in convincing Frontier Airlines, known for its cheap fares and excellent service, to try-out the Cincinnati market with one flight per day, six days a week between here and Denver. Airline analysts tell FOX19 they'll be watching to see Delta's reaction after Frontier begins flying out of CVG on May 17. If Delta dramatically drops its fares on this and other routes where it will compete with Frontier, it could be a sign Delta is trying to force yet another low-cost carrier out of CVG.

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