A new fare structure from Delta Air Lines for its Cincinnati passengers may determine the future of the hub, which has fallen in importance now Delta and Northwest have combined.

The fares, described as permanent, cut prices paid by about 80% of the passengers flying at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky. They respond in part to Cincinnati having long been among the top two in government rankings for highest average fares. Delta and its regional affiliates have over 80% of traffic at the airport.

While fares have stayed relatively high at the Cincinnati ­airport, Southwest and AirTran have made inroads to the region's traffic. Southwest serves Louisville, Kentucky, a 90 mile (148km) drive from the city centre, while AirTran serves Dayton, Ohio (47 miles), and both carriers serve Columbus, Ohio (100 miles).

Delta Airways
 © Delta

The new fares offer reductions of as much as 58% on a 21-day advance-purchase, with smaller reductions on tickets bought closer in and on walk-up fares.

Glenn Hauenstein, Delta's executive vice-president for network planning and revenue management, says the fares should make it "compelling" for customers to choose the airport "rather than wasting time and money driving to neighbouring airports". As many as 30% of the region's flyers used an airport other than Cincinnati last year.

One consultant, Cincinnati native George Hamlin of Hamlin Transportation Consulting, says: "Certainly, it might stimulate traffic at Cincinnati, but the new fares may well be a way to give the hub its last test. If they [Delta] don't get the kind of traffic that they want, this could provide political and public cover for reducing the hub there even more." Hamlin has been a consultant to the Louisville airport in the past five years.

The Cincinnati airport has about 13.6 million passengers a year, a 14% annual decline from the year before. Delta has cut mainline and regional flying there by about a third over the last 12 months.


Source: Airline Business