CINCINNATI (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER) - Travelers looking to fly in or out of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) may find themselves with fewer options to get them to their destination as 53 out of its 88 routes have been temporarily suspended by the airlines, according to data presented Monday to the airport’s board.
The airport is still operating 34 nonstop flights, with three more to be added back on in June, according to Mindy Kershner, a company spokesperson. Flights to LaGuardia in New York City and Washington D.C., as well as to Providence and Newark, will resume next month.
All remaining flights on legacy airlines such as Delta, American and United are to their major hubs across the nation.
Bobby Spann, the VP for external affairs, said airlines have been focused on connecting to hubs – Atlanta for Delta, Dallas for American – as the demand for air travel has decreased. As demand increases, Spann said, airlines will reopen their routes to cities for nonstop destinations.
“Airlines have indicated to CVG that any temporary suspension of service to nonstop destinations can eventually return when demand returns,” Spann said.
The temporary suspensions for May are as follows:
- American: New York-LaGuardia, New York-JFK, Miami, Washington D.C.-Reagan
- Delta: Austin, Hartford, Boston, Baltimore, Paris, Charlotte, Cancun, Washington D.C.-Reagan, Denver, Dallas, Newark, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, New York-LaGuardia, New York-JFK, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Kansas City, Orlando, Chicago-O’Hare, Philadelphia, Raleigh, Fort Myers, Seattle, San Francisco, St. Louis, Tampa, Toronto
- United: Denver, Houston, Newark
- Southwest: Denver, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa
- Frontier: Atlanta, Austin, Cancun, Dallas, Jacksonville, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Punta Cana, Raleigh, San Diego
- Allegiant: Denver
- Air Canada: Toronto
William Rankin, an associate professor of Aviation Management at the Florida Institute of Technology and former airport manager of 29 years, said the formula airports use to calculate how they use their planes and where they plan routes is complex, and the COVID-19 pandemic has created unforeseen complications with their calculations.
Rankin said this disruption of traffic patterns varies from the disruptions seen during 9/11 because of the infectious nature of the new coronavirus.
“The pandemic is going to affect people’s travel patterns more than a terrorist attack,” Rankin said. “Here you have an epidemic, if you get on an airplane, you are more likely to be close to someone with COVID-19,” Rankin said.
Flight suspensions as a result of drastically reduced air traffic are a phenomenon across the nation – Reuters reported that domestic flight traffic was down 51% nationally at the beginning of April, and most commercial planes were operating at 10% to 20% capacity.
According to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, Delta has seen a 95% decrease in air traffic since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
CVG has reported similar problems in both load factors and commercial and discretionary travel, Kershner said.
Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, CVG was operating at a 80% to 90% load factor, and now Kershner said load factors can fluctuate between 25% and 40% of operational capacity, but traffic has been increasing in the first weeks of May.
Rankin said he has heard professional estimates of airports returning to pre-coronavirus load factors of 75% and upwards are two to five years away, but a successful roll out of a vaccine would increase consumer confidence in flying.
Spann also said CVG is looking at 18 to 36 months to a return to normal capacity, and said flyers will return as consumer confidence returns.
“In discussions with industry colleagues, one thing airports do know is that customer confidence in air travel will begin to take off again when appropriate measures are in place to safeguard public health,” Spann said.
Whether a vaccine is to be rolled out in the future is to be seen – but Rankin said airports around the country are going to experience similar suspensions in routes.
“(CVG) and every other airport in this country isn’t going to come back immediately,” Rankin said. “This is going to take a while to work through.”