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Fewer Business Travelers Flying Out Of Cincinnati

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High air fares at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport are increasingly driving business travelers to cheaper flights out of nearby airports, contributing to worries that the airport is losing status and clout.
As recently as 2005, the Hebron, Ky., airport – Delta Air Lines’ second biggest hub – handled about 22 million passengers. Officials said they’ll be lucky if 10 million people move through the airport this year, largely because of Delta’s service cuts.
Even before Delta bought Northwest Airlines in October, the Atlanta-based airline had begun downsizing its Cincinnati hub, which had direct flights to nearly 100 cities. The airline reduced U.S. flights in favor of more lucrative international flights after it emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year.
The reduced number of destinations and flights has caused frustration among area executives, and many are no longer willing to pay fares that have been ranked the nation’s highest.
Executives at three-fourths of more than 30 Cincinnati-area companies said they are using airports in Indianapolis, Lexington and Louisville, Ky., and Dayton and Columbus, Ohio, because of Cincinnati’s expensive fares.
“Unless you’re suffering from delusion, you realize that the Cincinnati airport is now really in Dayton,” aviation expert Darryl Jenkins said.
Airport officials and the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber have commissioned a survey to determine whether the airport’s high costs are making it difficult to attract and keep jobs in the Cincinnati area.
“For a long time, the community recognized that for a high level of service you need to pay a premium,” said Doug Moormann, the chamber’s vice president of economic development. “But the tolerance for that premium is eroding.”
Area business and government leaders must work with Delta to get lower fares or a competing airline, Hamilton County Commissioner David Pepper said.
“It is a shame that we have this asset that most of our residents are driving an hour away to avoid,” he said.
Delta on Tuesday said it would cut up to 10 percent of domestic flights next year.
Richard Anderson, Delta’s chairman and chief executive officer, has said the airline would continue operating its Cincinnati hub.
“We are committed to making it work there,” he said.

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