PHL SPARED DEEP FLIGHT, CAPACITY CUTS
By Linda Loyd
Inquirer Staff Writer
Philadelphia International Airport will be spared flight and capacity cuts as deep as in some other cities this fall, as the industry responds to higher fuel prices and a sluggish economy.
Published airline schedules for November show domestic flights will be down 5.2 percent and seat capacity here will be reduced 6.5 percent compared with last November. In October, Philadelphia International lost 1.7 percent of flights and 2.3 percent of seats compared with October a year ago.
Cuts are in the double-digits in many cities.
"We're faring pretty well," said deputy aviation director James M. Tyrrell.
Oakland, Calif., will lose 24.3 percent of seats and flight frequencies compared to November 2007, and Cincinnati will lose 23.9 percent, according to the official airline guide that tracks schedules.
Las Vegas will lose 19.3 percent of seat capacity, and Los Angeles 13.8 percent.
Airlines can reduce seat capacity by cutting flights on a route, or replacing big planes with smaller ones.
"Philadelphia is a hub with a business-based clientele," Tyrrell said. "Business travelers are going to continue to fly."
Yet, a 6.5 percent capacity loss "is still material," said Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Radnor-based Business Travel Coalition. The impact will be higher fares, reduced service to midsize and small communities, and fewer flight frequencies, Mitchell said.
To the extent Philadelphia business travelers cannot get to midsize and smaller communities, and residents in those communities cannot get to Philadelphia, "business opportunities will erode," Mitchell said.
Fewer flights will force some travelers to book return trips with other carriers, or spend for hotel rooms when there isn't a flight available, Mitchell said.
Philadelphia is fortunate because a lot of flights originate and end here; the city attracts business and leisure travelers; it's an international gateway to Europe and the Caribbean, and a hub for US Airways Group Inc.
US Airways transports two-thirds of Philadelphia passengers and has announced capacity cuts in the fourth quarter of 4 percent to 6 percent systemwide, compared to the period last year. Most initial cuts were in Las Vegas and Phoenix.
"Philadelphia is basically losing 21.6 flights a week," said Morgan Durrant, US Airways spokesman. In November, US Airways will have 2,796 departures a week out of Philadelphia, compared with 2,947 a year ago.
US Airways is eliminating one flight a day to Ottawa, Canada; Salisbury, Md.; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Las Vegas; Indianapolis; Buffalo, N.Y.; and Newburgh, N.Y.
The number of flights per week to Portland, Maine; Hartford, Conn.; Columbus, Ohio; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Miami; and Williamsport, Pa., is also being trimmed.
The Tempe, Ariz.-based carrier is reducing the frequency of flights from Philadelphia to 54 cities compared with last November, and increasing the frequency to 18 others.
Southwest Airlines, Philadelphia's second-largest carrier, will eliminate one daily departure to Pittsburgh and one to Orlando Nov. 2, and add a daily flight to Tampa.
United will eliminate a return San Francisco flight Nov. 2, going from three to two per day. United trimmed one daily roundtrip flight to Los Angeles this month.
AirTran Holdings Inc. has eliminated its Philadelphia-to-Boston service because of fuel costs, and this summer suspended Tampa and Fort Lauderdale flights.
Northwest Airlines curtailed service from Indianapolis to Philadelphia, but added a Detroit flight in the last 12 months.
Continental Airlines Inc. will add four daily flights from Newark, N.J., and cut one flight a day from Houston.
American Airlines has cut one roundtrip flight to Dallas-Fort Worth, two flights to Chicago, and two roundtrip flights to St. Louis. Some reductions have already occured.
Delta Air Lines Inc. has 167 daily departures from Philadelphia and will have 168 in November. "We added a flight to Atlanta," spokeswoman Susan Elliot said.
Source - Philadelphia Inquirer