Tuesday, July 25, 2006

JetBlue Destroys Airports!

According to this article in my local newspaper, passenger loads at Charlottesville Airport--from which I depart on a regular basis--have declined by more than 5 percent over the past year. The reason: Ricmond International Airport, located only an hour and fifteen minutes away, now boasts cheap flights with Airtran and JetBlue. Richmond used to be a very expensive airport to fly into and out of, but the introduction of budget airlines has driven its prices down and increased its passenger load by more than 15 percent. Much has been written about budget carriers' effect on legacy carriers; but less has been said about their effect on regional airports, which lack the passenger loads to lure a budget carrier--which succeeds only when it packs planes to their fullest--into town. As the article explains, Charlottesville residents are now more inclined to drive to Richmond knowing that they can save over a 100 bucks. Although the commercial side of Charlottesville's airport won't shut down any time soon, it might very well lose some flights, or worse, an entire airline. Northwest recently started nonstop service to Detroit, but USAir terminated its flights to Pittsburgh and Delta cancelled an ill-conceived and ultimately unprofitable nonstop service to Orlando. It won't be long, I speculate, before USAir reconsiders its service to Philadelphia and Delta its service to Cincinnati. Planes on these routes are frequently scarcely populated, leading to cancellations, delays and headaches. Yet another reason to pack the car for Richmond.


Blogger Evan said...

There is at least once precedent for a budget airline operating, quite successfully, from a small regional airport. Of course, I'm speaking of Newport News/Williamsburg "International" Airport (the quotes because it's intl in name only). With only 5 jetways and 4 airlines, it certainly qualifies as a small regional airport, yet Airtran has done quite well operating there, regularly packing planes for nonstop service to Atlanta, Laguardia, Orlando, and my beloved Boston.

6:14 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

That's interesting. I wonder how Newport News's passenger load compares to Charlottesville's? Does Airtran fly to Atlanta from NN? If so, that means they're competing with Delta, which is interesting.

8:20 PM  
Blogger Evan said...

Airtran does fly to Atlanta from Newport News...that's probably the busiest route out of NN/WMBG. Interesting, Delta has started operating large jet service out of Newport News to Atlanta (MD-88s), whereas before they were only operating commuter flights. So, yes, I guess one could say that there is some competition between Delta and Airtran at Newport News. The airport is now experiencing the heaviest large-jet (100+ seats) traffic it has ever seen...lately, I have seen as many as three 717s/MD88s parked at once at the airport.

8:36 AM  

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