Airfare, flights down dramatically at Dayton airport

A Passenger plane flies out of Dayton International Airport Friday. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

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Airfare from Dayton International Airport and airports nationwide not only tumbled during the second quarter of 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic erased passenger demand, it also reached the lowest point on record.

The airport had average inflation-adjusted domestic fares of $269.20 for the quarter ending June 30, down from $440.35 in the second quarter of 2019, according to new U.S. Department of Transportation data.

That’s a 37.4 percent decline from the first quarter and marks the lowest inflation-adjusted average fare on record for the Dayton airport since records started being kept in 1995.

Of the 100 largest airports, Dayton’s still remained high as in previous years. It ranked 97th in terms of airfare cost, and a little more expensive than other larger Ohio airports, such as Cincinnati (CVG) at $214.79 (45th) and John Glenn Columbus (CMH) at $258.72 (48th).

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The national average fare declined to $259 in the second quarter, marking a 22.4 percent drop from the first quarter of this year, when it was about $349, and a 27.6 percent decline from the second quarter of 2019, when fares were $359, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

The previous low was $334 in the first quarter of 2020. Averages do not include frequent-flyer or “zero fares.”

Despite the drop in airfare, passenger enplanement at the Dayton airport has dramatically dropped similar to other national airports. Airlines reported a never-before-seen drop of 11.5 million originating passengers in the second quarter of 2020, down from 87.2 million passengers a year earlier.

Dayton saw 148,366 departing passengers in the first quarter of 2020 compared with just 28,859 in the second quarter, an 80.5 percent decline, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

The airlines, however, are offering upbeat forecasts about Thanksgiving and Christmas travel, even as many states report an increase in confirmed virus cases.

Officials at many airlines said they believe travel won’t fully return until the pandemic is under control and a vaccine is widely available. That could mean many more months of depressed revenue..

Linda Hughes, the airport’s air service and public relations administrator, told the Dayton Daily News “all conditions due to COVID-19 are very fluid and changing constantly.”

“Airport staffing has been adjusted by voluntary separation and retirements,” Hughes said. “Shops and restaurants have been scaled back to align with the number of passengers traveling through the airport. The CARES Act funding received earlier this year also helped us to meet our debt service obligations.”

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The health crisis is “unprecedented” with each day bringing about new changes, she said. Enplanement numbers for Dayton International Airport have continued to slowly increase since April.

In April, traffic was down 95% from the previous year, while September saw it down 65% from the previous year. “Enplanement numbers are increasing but COVID-19 still dictates quarantine restrictions in various parts of the country,” she said. “Each state has their own regulation and restrictions on travel as it relates to COVID-19.”

Adam Pilarski, senior vice president with Chantilly, Va.-based aviation consulting firm Avitas Inc., told the Dayton Daily News Friday that he forecast in April that 2019 levels won’t likely return until 2024.

What will help Dayton is that most of the traffic it sees is not international and that the airport is not a big hub city connecting to numerous destinations.

“The recovery in traffic will first happen on shorter-distance flying, on domestic flying and so on,” Pilarski said. “From that point of view, (Dayton) is better than average, but it depends. A lot depends unfortunately on a lot of things that I have no idea about, (including) when will we have a vaccine?”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

By the numbers

148,366: Passengers departing Dayton 2020 first quarter

28,859: Passengers departing Dayton 2020 second quarter

11.5M: Originating passengers nationwide 2020 second quarter

87.2M: Originating passengers nationwide 2019 second quarter