The Dayton International Airport is at an arduous point in its history — a major air carrier left this year, ticket prices are higher than most Ohio airports and passenger traffic has steadily declined.
At the same time, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport has seen its lowest average airfare in more than 20 years, increasing passenger traffic and businesses like Amazon flocking to the hub.
So, what’s really going on? Nationally, the declining trend has hit small- and medium-sized airports and forced several dozen to lose air service as they struggle to compete as major airlines pull up stakes and land at larger airports.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. AIRFARE DROPS Airfare data released recently show average ticket prices nationally have declined overall, but prices at the Dayton airport have climbed and are the highest compared to Ohio airports in Columbus, Cleveland, Akron and Cincinnati. Meanwhile, average airfare at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport dropped to the lowest in the region. After decades of being considered one of the most expensive airports in the U.S., the airfares at CVG have dropped 16 out of the 17 quarters.
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Dayton’s average airfare increased from last quarter to $400, while Columbus dropped to $369 and Cincinnati dropped to $369. Airports in Kentucky, like Louisville International-Standiford Field, were still more expensive than Dayton.
2. WHAT CAUSED DAYTON’S ISSUES? For the Dayton airport, passenger traffic declined more than 14 percent to 74,538 last month compared to August 2016 when 86,922 passengers traveled through the airport. The decrease was not a surprise to airport officials, who said it is a reflection of Southwest Airlines’ departure from the airport. Southwest’s decision is part of string of events to negatively impact Dayton’s airport.
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Troubles started back as far as 2008 when several mergers changed the air industry over a matter of years. Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines merged in 2008, American Airlines and U.S. Airways merged in 2013 and decided to keep American’s brand. Other mergers included United with Continental Airlines in 2010.
3. NATIONAL TREND Dayton is among 21 airports that Southwest has exited since the AirTran merger was announced, according to Volaire Aviation Consulting. And more than 50 small to medium-sized hubs have lost air service completely in the last five years. Slaybaugh said it is a disturbing trend to see small and medium-sized airports lose passenger traffic and capacity as air carriers leave for larger markets, but Dayton is not in danger of losing its airport services.
4. WHAT’S NEXT? The airport will also get a fresh look with millions of dollars in renovations — taking up to 22 months to complete. The airport’s terminal modernization project will occur in phases, and the first part will include new restrooms, HVAC upgrades, the relocation of the USO offices, lighting upgrades and other work.
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5. DISCOUNT FLIGHTS Local aviation expert Jay Ratliff said the low-cost carriers are traveling to different areas of the country — and now the globe — from Cincinnati, so the sudden increase in new options likely won’t lead to a saturation in the market any time soon. The competing airlines drive down prices, benefiting travelers in Southwest Ohio.
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