What are the Chances the Charlottesville Airport would Close?

I received the following email this morning from this group –

I’m writing to you as the Chairman of the Business Travel Coalition, and this morning we released a report detailing the top 100 regional and top 50 large airports that will lose service because of increasing fuel costs. Many of these airports may lose service all together.

Charlottesville is on the list.

You can view the rankings and have your community take action at http://www.savemyairport.com.

Skyrocketing fuel prices have created a serious threat to the viability of the U.S. airline industry – and that threat has serious implications for cities of all sizes that rely on air travel for their own economic well-being, as well as local companies that need air service to do business. Studies indicate that at current fuel prices, one or more major airlines could be liquidated later this year, wiping out all their service to hundreds of cities overnight.

With the caveat that I cannot find much about this group online, I initially dismissed the email until I read this on the Charlottesville/Albemarle Airport’s site:

It’s no secret that this will be a challenging summer for everyone involved in air transportation. That includes passengers, airlines, and airports of all sizes. With airlines looking for ways to reduce costs to offset the rising price of fuel, the air service industry has become extremely volatile.

CHO is no exception to the negative affects of the current fuel crisis. With airlines reducing flights across the nation, our loss has been minimal. We have only lost four of the fifty daily flights to and from CHO. Of those four, we have replaced some aircraft with larger ones, reducing our net loss of flights to three. Nothing is certain in today’s market, but one thing for sure, CHO will not rest until we are the airlines choice for air service to central Virginia.

Acknowledging the forthcoming challenges is wise, bold and surprisingly transparent.

One of the purported reasons for Charlottesville’s growth and popularity is its relatively thriving airport. (I prefer driving to Richmond) What would we do without it?

Update 06/25/2008: It’s amazing how fast a press release can travel:
C-Ville – (why not trackbacks/pingbacks? But thank you for the link!)
The HooK
WCAV


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8 Comments

  1. JoshC June 25, 2008 at 12:55

    CHO will have no problem keeping commercial service for the same reason that most of us drive to Richmond or Dulles: the high fares airlines are capable of charging here, between the amount of wealth in this region and UVa traffic that doesn’t really have a choice.

    According to their website, “In 1996, the Business Travel Coalition (BTC) was formed as an advocacy organization to represent the interests of corporate buyers of business travel services.” My read is that they’re deathly concerned with the legacy “major” airlines that have proven themselves almost completely incapable of running profitable businesses, but that give frequent (usually business) travelers minor perks and feed their egos with status recognition.

    I’d rather see the legacies fail as they should have done years ago in a free market, clearing room for competent carriers like Southwest and JetBlue to expand within the existing infrastructure.

    Reply
  2. CrozetMama June 25, 2008 at 14:54

    Despite the Business Travel Coalition’s inflammatory language, losing service does not equal loss of service altogether. As you note, CHO *has* lost service – a net of 3 flights. That’s not to say that there will always be service to CHO, but I don’t think the sky is falling in this case. Especially when little old SHD still has UAX service, I don’t think CHO’s in too much imminent danger.

    I actually prefer to fly from CHO vs RIC in most cases. Between the cost of gas to get there and parking at RIC, a small fare difference is offset. And time is money – spending an extra hour in the car can be a dealbreaker. With the exception of a few destinations served by low-cost carriers, flying from RIC still involves a change of planes in ATL, CVG, IAD, CLT, or other hub, just like flying from CHO. RIC may be big and shiny, but it’s still not a hub.

    Oh, a minor point – losing scheduled service is not equal to closure. There are thousands of airports in the US with no schedule airline service, but private aircraft, charters, and fractionals happily come and go all day (and night) long.

    Reply
  3. Jim Duncan June 25, 2008 at 15:01

    On the Richmond -v- Charlottesville angle, I much prefer Charlottesville when it works but I have had such bad luck getting in and out of CHO that I just gave up and started going to RIC.

    Getting home to me is more important than getting out, and I’ve spent too many times in Cincinnati, Charlotte, DC, etc because the last flight into CHO was delayed/canceled/left early. At least in Richmond there is usually another flight.

    On their inflammatory language – it’s fearmongering to a degree that is taking advantage of the current fuel situation, and I doubt that CHO would close, but flights may be more limited, no?

    Reply
  4. CrozetMama June 25, 2008 at 20:23

    Yes, flights may be more limited. Flights are already more limited, even in and out of hubs. Airlines can’t coast on fuel hedged when oil was $25/barrel any more, and must fill seats to make money. An 80% load factor was pretty good 10 years ago. These days, that won’t cut it. So airlines have pared their schedules, and are filling/overbooking their aircraft.

    I hear you on having options in RIC. Just keep in mind that the low-cost carriers don’t have interline agreements with any other carriers, so if your JetBlue flight from BOS cancels, you’re pretty much screwed (yes, I know from personal experience – oy!). At least the majors can put you on another major’s flight to get you home, though it may not be the route you were expecting. And with everyone’s flights packed to the gills, your options may be limited, even if you’re getting rescheduled on your original airline.

    To me (a former airline pilot, and die hard aviation enthusiast), this all kind of begs the question – what about other transportation options? Why has the government poured billions into a corrupt and broken air transportation system while passenger rail in this country is virtually nonexistant? That’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish, though…

    Reply
  5. Barbara Hutchinson, Executive Director, CHO June 26, 2008 at 21:56

    Sorry to be replying so late. Interestingly enough, the local CBS Newsplex carried a story on this report, even though the Coalition has failed to return calls or requests for factual data utilized to comprise their conclusions. It is hard to believe their prediction for the demise of virtually every commercial service airport in Virginia with the exception of Dulles and National. Seems many agree, including industry expert Mike Boyd and airline representatives.

    The local report also mentions I refused to comment. Unfortunately, when this reporter called I was in Pittsburgh attending meetings with industry/economics experts as well as airline ceo’s/representatives. I didn’t think the airline folks we were meeting one-on-one for airport updates would appreciate being dumped for this press release.

    CHO has nothing to hide. Our industry is in its most challenging times. Some (probably many) would even agree for the government intervention being sought by this Coalition. However, I will have pass over the sensationalism used as an attempt to get individuals to write their local Congressmen (their website so states the intent of the press release). Sorry to say I spent part of my day receiving calls from worried ticketholders and travel agents.

    CHO hopes to keep revenue local. The last economic impact report issued by the VA Dept. of Aviation in 2004 estimated CHO’s direct economic impact as exceeding $20 million and indirect impact of over $50 million. While our passenger traffic has declined, the first 8 months of FY 08 exceeded FY 07 despite the initiation of 3 low cost carriers in Richmond. Most consumers are also unaware of the strong local corporate aviation market. Our first quarter aircraft operations exceed Richmond International by 10% thanks to corporate aviation traffic.

    We are also very proud that CHO is self-supporting. No City or County tax contributions are made to CHO, even though similarly sized airports around the country are subsidized.

    We need AND appreciate our community’s support, and value the opportunity to provide honest and accurate communication. While I may not be able to respond to requests for information immediately, I promise to try my best-even if you are a frequent customer of RIC!

    Watch our website tomorrow for our reply to the Newsplex report. After many meetings Sunday-Wednesday, we are prepared to share the good and the not-so-good news we have received.

    Best regards,
    Barbara

    Reply
  6. Pingback: CHO Responds to Questions about their impending demise | Real Central VA

  7. Matt S. June 27, 2008 at 11:30

    What is this groups ‘solution’? Get more people beating the drum for cheap gasoline, lobbying Congress to ‘do something.’

    Congress is doing something alright, scaring the hell out of the markets with their ever-increasing stupidity.

    Threaten Saudi Arabia with lawsuits and trade cuts? Prices went up. Follow through and watch them go up more.

    Threaten to nationalize oil? Prices went up. Follow through and watch the gubmint double prices again, unless they directly subsidize fuel like second and third world countries do.

    Regulate futures markets and speculators? Prices up again. I have not seen one credible economist who supports this “speculator” scapegoating for high oil prices. They understand that futures and options markets are actually stabilizing forces. Past attempts at regulating prices down this way have been utter failures.

    Need more confirmation? Look at what a winner their housing bailout bill is- the markets have been dumping hard all week in response.

    Congress’ bailout spending will all end up on the national deficit, killing the dollar even more and pushing interest rates up. That’ll really help housing won’t it?

    Bernanke isn’t helping either– oil prices spiked again on Wednesday on his failure to follow through on his ‘strong dollar’ jawboning. Of course if he raises rates the equity markets will tank even more. That is the rock and hard place he is stuck between.

    Everyone lobbying Congress for quick and dirty fixes will have only themselves to blame when it blows up in their faces.

    Reply
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