Delta Keeps Shrinking Cincinnati but Not Memphis

On April 14, 2008, Delta and Northwest announced their merger with the promise that they would “maintain all hubs at Atlanta, Cincinnati, Detroit, Memphis, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York-JFK, Salt Lake City, Amsterdam and Tokyo-Narita.” I didn’t buy it, and I responded that it had to involve “cutting capacity out of the system. Where are the most likely candidates? I’m looking at you, Memphis and Cincinnati.” Now, over a year later, I thought it was time to take a look.

It appears that my predictions were half right. Cincinnati is shrinking rapidly (including a recent cut of 24 daily flights), but Memphis is actually holding strong. Who would’ve guessed? Let’s look at some graphs.

Number of Cincinnati Flights

Here you can see Cincinnati’s rapid decline. I looked at the number of daily departures on a random Wednesday during November for 2007, 2008, and 2009. During that time, the number of Delta/Northwest departures from the airport have been cut in half from 416 to 208. Mainline flights have dropped from 62 to 28, and now you’ll see mostly little 50 seaters buzzing around. Can it be much longer before the cuts continue? I think not.

Then we have Memphis. Check this one out.

Number of Memphis Flights

Memphis has held strong. There are now only 203 flights compared to 221, but that’s a much smaller decrease than what Cincinnati has seen and it’s in line with the general capacity cuts we’ve seen around the system. It has lost a lot of mainline – 78 to 42 departures – but that is still a fairly large percentage of the total operation. Most importantly, Memphis has not seen a loss in the number of destinations served, so it’s really just a frequency reduction. Meanwhile, Cincinnati has seen the number of destinations served drop from 116 to 77. See for yourself.

Memphis and Cincinnati Number of Destinations

So we see a mixed bag here, that’s for sure. Delta appears to be finding some level of success in Memphis while Cincinnati suffers from death by a thousand cuts.

[Updated 7/7 @ 1118a: Transposed Memphis departure numbers were fixed]


55 Responses to Delta Keeps Shrinking Cincinnati but Not Memphis

  1. SEAN says:

    The answer maybe simpler than one might think. As far as hubs go CVG IS close to DTW which renders CVG unessessary as a hub. Also DTW has a large number of international flights.

  2. Dan says:

    I worked on a mathematical model for my Masters thesis that suggests Cincinnati in and of itself as a hub still has life left in it. One of the reasons Cincinnati is seeing current decline is that Delta doesn’t have enough of the right airframes for that market. What Delta is in desperate need of are more 90-100 seat regional jets. Mathematically, the 50-seaters need to be parked ASAP, and Delta simply doesn’t have the right equipment to replace that. On top of that, because of the characteristics of the surrounding region (ie IND, DAY, SDF, CMH) CVG is unlikely to see LCC service any time soon, let alone WN who already competes at three of those airports… so DL can slash capacity at will when it’s necessary.

    Not to mention that of the seven hubs, DTW has the lowest single-segment O&D fares (CVG has the highest), has to deal with the DTW economy, and direct competition with WN and NK. CVG also is a more ideal connecting point (DL/NW carriers a higher proportion of connecting traffic than the other major carriers, so there’s a greater concern for managing connecting costs there).

    I can send you a draft of the paper if you want. It’s rather complete.

  3. A says:

    Hard to tell from your graphs but looks like Memphis has historically had more (although slim majority if any) mainline flights. Perhaps there is more local demand in Memphis which can keep those mainline flights in the black and keep flight reductions down. Perhaps the differences in the local economy of Memphis vs. Cincinnati is playing a role in this?

  4. David SFeastbay says:

    With MSP, DTW, and CVG that is a lot of hubs in a very close area. MEM is out there by itself and along with ATL can do a lot of north/south connections in the eastern half of the U.S. It can also help with east/west connections along the southern part of the country.

  5. Adam says:

    I kind of wonder if the existence of the FedEx hub in Memphis helps Memphis keep going–two different airlines operating hubs at one field, at different times of day and night could make for much lower landing costs.

  6. David says:

    For senior management, cutting CVG makes things politically much easier should they choose to cut MEM in the next 18 months. Not only will many of the hopes, fears and expectations about keeping NW intact be forgotten, but management can also show that they are not just targetting the staff of the smaller airline – they can point to clear cuts that have taken place at CVG.

  7. I’d also put in here that Ohio has been hit quite hard by the recession,as has DTW, but CVG doesn’t have the International traffic to keep it strong as a hub.

  8. Dan says:

    @NB

    Well, truth be told, DTW doesn’t have that much international traffic either — under the NW brand, it served CDG, AMS, FRA, and LGW on the European side, and NRT and KIX on the Asian side. What I haven’t had access to is international itinerary information, so I can’t tell you how much of the DTW feed is O&D and how much is connecting traffic. Even CVG serves CDG, LON, and FRA.

  9. CF says:

    Sean – On your first point, Cincinnati is only 229 miles from Detroit, but Memphis is only 332 miles from the much larger Atlanta.

    Dan – Definitely send the paper on over to cf@crankyflier.com. Sounds like some good bedtime reading. I’m not as convinced that Cincinnati won’t see an LCC presence. As Delta continues to reduce its presence, it could make it more attractive for an LCC to come in. I wouldn’t be shocked to see AirTran or even Frontier give it a shot, despite the proximity of some other locations.

    As for Delta, there’s no question that the 50 seaters are awful. They had the chance to ditch more of those in bankruptcy and they failed to do so. Now they have to pay the price. But I’m not so sure that even more 90 to 100 seat airplanes would make Cincinnati viable. Yes, they need those planes, but how many routes could those adequately serve from Cincinnati? So many of the cities they serve from there are smaller, so there isn’t a ton of demand.

    A – I would imagine the local economies play a big part here. As Nicholas says, Ohio has been hit particularly hard, and the South isn’t as bad.

    Dan – Detroit has more international traffic. Those Cincinnati flights are drying up quickly. London and Frankfurt are going away leaving only the Paris flight.

  10. Thomas says:

    MEM also benefits from three parallel runways (with a fourth perpendicular strip), relatively good weather year round, and, I believe, extremely low operating costs for the airlines.

    People have been predicting the death of MEM as a hub for 20 years, from Republic to NW to DL, it just keeps chugging on.

    Next time you’re through there, have some Interstate BBQ. You’ll start planning trips so you can have connections in MEM.

  11. I blame Cincinnati’s pull down in part to a confusion as to which state the airport is located in. Unknown to most people its actually in Kentucky. Every so often they have to wave a CRJ off from Lunken field. Its not pretty when it happens.

    That being said I also have a bridge in Nebraska that is for sale.

  12. Rochester Rich says:

    Cranky, As long as you’re noting figures for Delta’s CVG and MEM hubs can you do the same for SLC, JFK, LAX, ATL, DTW, NRT, AMS, and any others I may have missed. Great posts from your honeymoon. I forwarded them to my brother who dreams of vacationing in the South Pacific in a villa over water.
    Dan, I’d like to read your thesis as well. Could you send me a copy at RDimperio@alumni.williams.edu. Thanks.

  13. CF says:

    Rochester Rich – I actually had to ask a friend to pull these numbers for me, so I don’t want to burden him with pulling all those. Sorry about that.

    Hopefully when Dan sends me his thesis, he’ll allow me to post for everyone to see.

  14. Rochester Rich says:

    In that case never mind. I was just curious and thought you might have easy access to them.

  15. Dan says:

    CF,

    CVG spills/leaks a @$@#-ton of traffic to the neighboring airports. I saw a study Sabre did a couple of years ago, but unfortunately, I wasn’t too impressed with it. Amongst the neighboring markets, the Cincinnati MSA is #1 in terms of population, yet was #3 in terms of single-segment enplanements. CMH and IND (both WN cities) kick CVG’s butt. My point with all of this is that I think any airline that serves a surrounding airport would simply cannibalize its traffic if it starts service at CVG. And, other than WN, who else is even much of a threat? FL would fly to ATL and perhaps BWI; F9 would fly to DEN.

    Now, you’re right in that a lot of airports served from CVG are on the small side. CVG’s strength lies in that 1) The fares are some of the highest in the country and 2) It’s a more efficient connection than DTW for a huge number of connecting markets. So CVG would steal some connecting traffic from DTW. When I last checked the data, there was something like 5000 overlapping markets that use DTW and CVG as hubs; for 3500 of them, CVG was a more efficient connection. (I identified these markets based on passenger itinerary info from the DOT.) Given the weak O&D fares in DTW, the LCC competition it has, and the deteriorating economy in the entire state, I just have to wonder about its future.

  16. CF says:

    Dan – Good discussion here. I think it’s safe to say that the reason Cincinnati loses traffic to surrounding airports is directly tied to their high airfares. That doesn’t mean people in the area wouldn’t prefer to fly from Cincinnati if they could do it for close to what they’re finding in other cities. That’s why I could see AirTran moving in to Cincinnati with a decent presence. Yes, it would take away from their operation in Indy, but it would more likely steal Southwest passengers from Indy, Louisville, and Columbus, not to mention Delta flyers who are watching their Cincinnati options shrink by the day. I know AirTran flies to Dayton, but that’s only 40 miles closer than Columbus and Indy so it’s not going to have a tremendous pull.

    As for Frontier, I don’t know what the heck they’ll do after the Republic purchase. They’ve tried mini-operations in LA and Memphis with no success, so maybe they’ll try Cincinnati. I just don’t know what to expect from them.

    I can’t imagine that Delta would maintain a presence in Cincinnati because it’s easier to connect there. Detroit has a fantastic airport that can get passengers to the rust belt and northeast. Atlanta can handle the southeast. If Memphis does stay, it can make Cincinnati even more irrelevant, but I’m not convinced even that’s necessary.

  17. Dan says:

    CF,

    The whole CVG thing is really weird. The airport itself is located aways away from downtown Cincinnati. In fact, when I worked in the northern suburbs, CVG and DAY were about equidistant from my office.

    Also, while working on my thesis, I spent a lot of time talking to some folks from the CVG airport authority — and they told me try as they might, LCC’s weren’t interested in serving CVG. Part of it is a lack of understanding of the local/regional dynamics. Truth be told, I was surprised at how much lobbying specific airports do for service.

    I wrote my paper back when fuel prices were escalating with seemingly no end in sight. I figured in a cost of $5/gal for Jet A. I realize that my findings might be contrary to conventional wisdom (and recall that you did a stint in US’s pricing/revenue unit) but truth is, I think the airline industry needs some radical restructuring to be a profitable ongoing concern. Afterall, it’s simply not profitable. As per your last paragraph, a more efficient connection point alone may or may not be sufficient to maintain a presence, but that combination with CVG’s fare structure may very well be. Then again, I’ve never worked in network planning for a legacy, so I have no idea how it’s done. Furthermore, DL’s operation carries a higher ratio of connection to O&D traffic than the other carriers do, so perhaps the onus really is on them to give more focus to the costs of carrying that traffic.

  18. One other curiosity I’ve learned of when I lived near CVG is that people will actually drive to DAY, then catch a flight to CVG then connect their to their final destination, because it is much cheaper. The other thing I’ve noticed is for whatever reason this usually results in a return via ATL.

    I’m extremely surprised that Delta doesn’t price their DAY fares right where the CVG ones are at.

  19. Dan says:

    @NB:

    Airlines lose some pricing power when they offer connecting flights instead of a non-stop. For the most part, a connection is a connection, and if DL jacks DAY fares out of the water, why not connect on CO through CLE instead?

  20. CF says:

    Dan – I would definitely agree that some radical restructuring is due, but focusing on connecting traffic is never a winning strategy. Hubs need to have local traffic to support them or the revenue just isn’t strong enough to support the flights they need. Airlines really only have pricing power on nonstop routes. On connecting routes, everyone can offer a relatively similar product, so it’s the nonstop where you can make your money.

  21. Trent880 says:

    I still don’t think MEM is in it for the longhaul as a hub; it’s too close to ATL and any incremental addition is going to make more sense than MEM. But while we’re speaking of superfluous hubs and hubs focused on connecting traffic, I’ll submit the white elephant as another DL hub whose writing is on the wall: NRT.

  22. Dan says:

    CF, I know that, but…

    DTW: Fares are weak, the economy is in the toilet, and there is competition from NK and WN.

    CVG: Fares are strong, Cincinnati is home to a lot of companies that are doing well, and there is no LCC competition at the big airport. I think the combination of both is enough to take a second look at exactly how the two airports should be used in the future.

  23. Trent880 says:

    WN and NK are really not major players at DTW. Sure they may influence pricing but they aren’t growing by any means–WN doesn’t even serve LAS or MCO from DTW.

  24. CF says:

    Dan – As Trent880 said, Southwest and Spirit don’t really have huge presences in Detroit. Southwest only has 17 daily departures to five cities (Chicago/Midway, Baltimore, St Louis, Nashville, and Phoenix). Spirit only has 11 daily departures to 9 cities, but those are leisure schedules that don’t really appeal to anyone but the bargain hunters who don’t care about time.

    What are the costs per enplaned passenger like in Cincinnati? Are they on the high side? That could explain the lack of interest from low cost carriers. I see Cincinnati for Delta looking something like Milwaukee or Indianapolis. It should still serve the big cities that are in demand by the local companies, but there’s no need for service to a lot of the smaller cities from there.

  25. Dan and Cranky – Re: Keeping DAY competitive. I think its kinda sad that they even run a Dayton to Cincinnati flight. I can see where it could be of some use, but I’d really be interested to know how much leakage from the CVG area they’re getting of people doing fare evasion. It doesn’t do Delta much good to sell a Cincinnatian a lower priced ticket, then have to fly them another segment to give them that lower price…

  26. Trent880 says:

    I think LCCs stay away from CVG because it’s tiny–it’s about half the size of IND or CLE in terms of passenger demand. It has a decent premium market, but it’s still small. WN has remained pretty stagnant in neighboring cities like DTW, CMH, CLE, IND, and PIT that are all much bigger than CVG.

  27. Dan says:

    @Trent,

    Analyzing the CVG market is tough… for instance… two of the five cities you list are within driving distance of Cincinnati. You list them as being “bigger” than CVG, yet by looking at population count, the Cincinnati MSA is larger than that of the Columbus MSA and Indy MSA. (MSA = metropolitan statistical area). It’s common knowledge that there is leakage from the CVG market to IND and CMH as well as DAY. So what is the “true” passenger demand from CVG? Hard to say.

    @NB, FWIW, when I worked for United Express, we operated an IAD-BWI flight. Because it was so short, if we needed a spare J32 aircraft for whatever reason, that was the route we’d pull it from, and as a result, the operational reliability was horrible. At the time, a different UAX carrier operated MKE-ORD, which IIRC is an 88 mile flight (about 25 miles longer than the others that we’re talking about.) I flew that segment a lot as I would travel to see my parents in MKE — and the operational reliability of that flight was also in the toilet.

    FWIW, these days I work in airspace optimization research, and one reason short flights get screwed a lot is because of the way ATC hands out delays — lots of times, when ATC needs a last minute traffic management initiative, the only thing they can do is hold flights that haven’t taken off yet. And at the last minute, it’s those short regional flights.

  28. CF says:

    I believe the Cinci – Dayton flight was killed off in this latest round of cuts. BTW, that Milwaukee – Chicago flight used to be mainline!

  29. Trent880 says:

    @ Dan I don’t disagree, but what it all adds up to is that CVG is supporting a hub that is massively oversized for the market it serves. Sure CVG might *really* be bigger or smaller than its passenger demand lets on given leakage etc, but it’s not double. The hub should look like CO at CLE or US at PIT at best.

  30. DougOH says:

    Methinks its only a matter of time before Southwest barges (but not on the Ohio river) its way into CVG. I used to think that WN would eventually pick at the edges by going to DAY but recent moves into major markets (LGA, BOS, PHL) shows that WN is no longer picking secondary markets to get PAX to major cities.

    WN going to BWI, MDW, DEN, LAS, STL, PHL, and the usual suspect Florida cities seems much more doable at CVG than with DAY. Airtran is supposedly more lower-cost than WN and already is running 3 jets daily to BWI and one to MCO and otherwise has plenty of other capacity to Florida with the 4 nonstops to ATL then beyond. F9 runs 2 jets daily to DEN. WN could chase both of them out if they really want to but why try so hard?

    The only question remains Delta’s commitment to CVG, and whether maintaining a fortress hub fare premium brings worthwhile profits or at least cash flow? Delta probably cannot make many more cuts at CVG beyond the ones announced, lest they lose their lock on gates which is in short supply for would-be entrants to CVG.

  31. john says:

    Wondering if Dan could forward study. I’d like to read it also.

  32. Paul Jordan says:

    Dan-

    I grew up in Cincinnati and would love to see the paper. If so can you please send to paajorda1@yahoo.com

    Paul

  33. Ben Luchow says:

    @ A:
    Historically, no. Recently, yes. Back in 2005, cvg was HUGE(bigger than dtw is now for DL), with 620 flights and over 200 mainline a day.

  34. Ben Luchow says:

    @ Nicholas Barnard:
    Cincinnati has over 400000 more people in its metro than memphis, not to mention the base of 7 fortune 500 companies including P&G, chiquita, macys, fifth third, scripps, kroger, ge aviation, and so on. Cincinnati is much stronger than Memphis economically, as it has these many companies and has weathered the recession quite well.

  35. David says:

    Perhaps the next time “you” have multi-stops to your destination, you might have re-thought your previous decisions to utilize the “cheaper” fares from
    various satellite city airports. Cincinnati has never really appreciated what was once here and will never experience the convenience again. As far as I’m concerned it gives the area what it rightly deserves. I wonder what John Matarese will do now for air fare tirades?

  36. elvis says:

    Memphis has Elvis. That’s tourism, folks. Plus you have the Casino trade in Mississippi 1/2 hr from MEM. (not to mention the increasing popularity of the MS blues trail..)

    That’s what MEM has going for it in a big-time way: tourism.

  37. DougOH says:

    Does anybody wonder where Delta is going to get the RJ’s for the beefed up service at LGA next year? With the 125 slots coming from USAirways Delta has promised to replace turbo-prop flights with larger jets and bring service to new destinations as well. Is this a prelude to dismantling the CVG hub ala AA at St. Louis?

  38. CF says:

    DougOH wrote:

    Does anybody wonder where Delta is going to get the RJ’s for the beefed up service at LGA next year? With the 125 slots coming from USAirways Delta has promised to replace turbo-prop flights with larger jets and bring service to new destinations as well. Is this a prelude to dismantling the CVG hub ala AA at St. Louis?

    Well, a third of those can come from the National slots that Delta will give to US Airways as part of the deal. The remaining ones? It could come from Cincinnati, but Delta has plenty of excess capacity all around its system. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it come from everywhere.

  39. TW says:

    1. Cincinnati and Memphis are both going to stay as small hubs roughly the same size.

    2. Delta is not going to close a DL hub and displace its own people, it’s going to close the NW hub.

    3. Don’t give me this Ohio rust belt bull. Cincinnati has a WAY better economy then Memphis

  40. Steve ramirez says:

    I think that delta is fine just as it is!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  41. john d says:

    Haha, yeah Elvis is driving Memphis. Memphis is nothing compared to the Cincy metro market business or tourism.

  42. BNA Flyer says:

    CF-

    I don’t believe MEM will ever shut down and CVG will for several reasons:
    *The airport had profitability problems under Republic and was fixed by NW long ago with former NW people and Pinnacle executives saying it is in fact now profitable and has been for a while.(See commercial appeal online archives for this)
    *Because NW people are now at the helm of Delta outnumbering former DL people loyalty will be the former NW hub that has already been fixed and right sized.
    *ATL and MEM have coexisted under Delta, Southern, & Republic before. Delta only consolidated because it couldn’t compete with Republic and Republic only consolidated because it couldn’t compete with Delta. They’re now ONE airline with no such competition issues remaining. (See http://www.memphischamber.com/KenticoCMS/Articles/DoBusiness/Flight-Plan.aspx, ASA website, and Google news archives for sources to back up this argument)
    *MEM former DL ops having been shut to be moved to CVG and DFW per above article and ASA website because of comp. in MEM makes it logical now to to keep MEM to replace the DFW which no longer exists and CVG which appears to not have worked out for several reasons(high fares, traffic leakage, disenchantment with local fliers, failure to draw traffic away from ORD as originally planned and new alternatives now available that have worked in MSP and DET).
    *FedEx makes it incredibly cheap to operate in Memphis
    *ATL has had and will continue to have capacity issues over time as DL originally expanded MCO into its first form hub to take off pressure(see Google news archives for source) so MEM will be needed while that isn’t even an issue to consider with DET and MSP to warrant keeping CVG around. Plus, MEM can recapture the southern east-west and midwest traffic lost with DFW to make it less cannibalizing for ATL while CVG just cannibalizes everything(north-south through ATL, before the int’l flights were cut JFK, northern east-west through MSP and DET). Other than connecting two or three cities to the Ohio Valley like Nashville who would otherwise have to fly out of their way, there is no purpose left for CVG and it has clearly failed and died since 9/11).
    All that said, I think MEM will stay and CVG will shut and I belive AirTran or SW will come in and fill the void with a reasonably large operation out of Delta’s old T3 gates. I doubt CVG will maintain CDG service if the hub closes and I also doubt that they will easy get another flag carrier to come in and fill the gap as well. I think that Air Canada would be a good filler for the international gap because they could connect people through Canada to Europe and overseas and avoid the new seating one hour before landing on the transatlantic or pacific portions of their flight since it won’t be headed for the U.S.(I realize you’d still have to sit for the last hour from Toronto to CVG but that would be much easier than having to sit for the last hour of your international leg) For now though, CVG fliers should appreciate what they have and do everything they can to show Delta they might at least be able to support a good strong O&D focus city down the road. The CVG hub is still comparable to what AA used to have here in Nashville and I always considered myself pretty luckly(still do with SW and DL down the road).

    Would love to hear your responses and comments on this. I think it’s a pretty good case that most people overlook.

  43. CF says:

    Good breakdown, BNA Flyer. From what I hear, I think I agree with your outcome, but I’m not sure that I agree with all the points you’ve made. This definitely makes for a good discussion. Thanks for spending the time on it.

    BNA Flyer wrote:

    The airport had profitability problems under Republic and was fixed by NW long ago with former NW people and Pinnacle executives saying it is in fact now profitable and has been for a while.

    This is what I’ve heard from Delta/Northwest people as well. The Northwest guys really did a number on this hub – they got it to a place where it actually makes money. I doubt it’ll grow much, but it shouldn’t shrink either unless things begin to change. (That’s always a possibility in this industry.) Cincinnati, on the other hand, hasn’t worked in ages, and the flight cuts make that clear.

    BNA Flyer wrote:

    Because NW people are now at the helm of Delta outnumbering former DL people loyalty will be the former NW hub that has already been fixed and right sized.

    While this may be true, I would hope that wouldn’t be the case. There’s no room for loyalty to a hub here based upon heritage. It may sound cold, but if the hub works, it should be kept. If it doesn’t, it should go away. I would hope that’s the only rationale they use.

    BNA Flyer wrote:

    MEM former DL ops having been shut to be moved to CVG and DFW per above article and ASA website because of comp. in MEM makes it logical now to to keep MEM to replace the DFW which no longer exists and CVG which appears to not have worked out for several reasons

    That was a long time ago in a completely different industry state. I don’t see the need for MEM for connecting purposes – Atlanta can certainly handle that quite well for most of the routes that MEM serves. Remember, that was AA’s plan for St Louis too but it just didn’t work. If MEM can support the flights with enough local traffic, it makes it a very nice place to connect for passengers and that combines to make it work.

    As for Cincinnati, I wouldn’t worry about the city. Delta will at least keep flights to its hubs and that will provide more than enought feed to international destinations. The last hour rule appears to be gone, so that’s not really something to consider for foreign carriers. If Delta retrenches enough, someone will move in, but I don’t know who it might be.

  44. DougOH says:

    Delta execs surely recognize that if they close the CVG hub for good and only operate minimal flights, then there would be a rush of new carriers taking over to fill the gaps. JetBlue, Southwest, and Airtran can also fly Cincy’s and other local passengers to all of Delta’s hub cities either nonstop or with connecting flights and apparently do it elsewhere with profitability. Guess my point is how can Delta shrink its way to profitability in the U.S. and let other carriers continue growing like wildfire? Ok so DL is focusing on international flying (like everybody else) but if you gradually lose your customer base because you only offer nonstop flights to your hubs (Detroit, MSP, Atlanta, and Memphis are NOT the largest travel markets in the U.S. either – think New York, Chicago, Dallas, and Los Angeles) – why should Ohio (and tri-state) passengers pick Delta over any other airline with connecting flights?

    This story would be totally different, had USAirways and Delta became one airline. A Delta-US combination probably would have GROWN CVG because it would have been the only midwest hub, to go along with PHX, SLC, ATL, PHL, and LGA (Charlotte probably would have shrunk or closed, in favor of Atlanta). Las Vegas is already gone as a US hub and probably would have lost out to SLC.

    Whether it is Delta or somebody else, and because of Ohio’s population and central location there will always be major hub-like operation for an airline. SW Ohio is the country’s largest 90 minute air market (meaning the highest % of the US population is reachable by air than in any other location) and the fact that Ohio is the 7th most populous state, the numbers add up for serving the market with a hub. Ohio is behind CA, TX, NY, IL, PA, and FL in population, and is also the smallest size of the 7, so think how highly concentrated the population is and the demand for air service.

    If Delta had a large fleet of 100 seat RJ’s I can see them being deployed to CVG and making money with a combination of nonstop and connecting paying passengers, and keeping market share in the U.S. one passenger at a time.

    Speaking of 100-seat jets and who has them and has ordered more – Jetblue – I can see them establishing a midwest hub soon and growing at other airline’s expense. Jetblue needs to connect some more dots with their west coast and east coast cities and they can’t really do it effciently with JFK and Long Beach hubs.

  45. DougOH says:

    If Southwest were to move into CVG, would it become more like a Pittsburgh presence with just a handful of flights to key cities – or could Southwest create a mini-hub ala St. Louis? With 85 mainline flights daily at STL, such a presence at CVG could in some ways be better than the couple dozen mainline flights Delta has left, and DL could always keep mainline flights to MSP, ATL, SLC, and CDG like they do in other cities. Other LCC’s could fill some voids with mainline flights to other places like DEN, BOS, etc. All that would really be lost are smaller city direct flights and the official STATUS as a HUB. Oh, and prices would be a lot cheaper than they are now…

  46. CF says:

    DougOH wrote:

    If Southwest were to move into CVG, would it become more like a Pittsburgh presence with just a handful of flights to key cities – or could Southwest create a mini-hub ala St. Louis?

    Southwest is always looking for opportunities, so I have no doubt they’re watching Delta’s pullback in Cincinnati closely. There are, however, some big differences between St Louis and Cincinnati.

    Kansas City is the current Southwest station closest to St Louis, and that’s 237 miles away. Meanwhile, from Cincinnati, Southwest serves Louisville 84 miles away, Indianapolis 99 miles away, and Columbus 115 miles away. So it wouldn’t serve as large of a catchment area as St Louis. So I don’t know that we’d see it grow as large as St Louis, but there could be opportunity.

  47. DougOH says:

    As large the catchment area is between Columbus, Indianapolis, Louisville, and Dayton is – one airline or another will see a void in heavy business markets such as LA, Seattle, Hartford, Boston, New York, etc and not need connecting traffic. Southwest running 12 flights from CVG to their closest hubs of MDW, STL, BNA isn’t gonna cut it. IND has some direct flights to the large business markets going west but is a 2-3 hour drive from Ohio/KY.

  48. DougOH says:

    For those who are rooting for Delta to maintain a hub in Cincinnati, perhaps you should be glad DL is dropping the 22 gates they do not need and helping the airport consolidate carriers into one terminal and reduce costs. I believe Delta will help the airport pick and choose which of any low-cost carriers they can live with, much like they are doing now with the proposed slot-swap at LGA and keeping Southwest out. In the meantime, their projected savings of $20 million per year, by consolidating and reducing employment, while maintaining the same number of flights (28 gates is still plenty for the approximately 190 daily flights), can only ensure the viability of keeping CVG as a hub and maintaining market share in the tri-state. DL is still the largest carrier at DAY and perhaps they intend to stay around the midwest!

    Maybe more telling, is that with the summer schedule at CVG, DL has added or swapped larger planes (mainline and larger RJ’s) that have first class on 20 flights, to Austin (new route), San Antonio (new route), Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Hartford, Jacksonville, JFK, LGA, Minneapolis, Seattle, and DCA.

    With the proposed slot swap with USAirways and all but vacating DCA, perhaps CVG will play a important role in maintaining access to DCA, and could be why the 4 daily flights are being upgraded to larger jets with first class. CVG is the closest of the current hubs to DCA.

    A real vote of confidence would be if DL were to resume nonstop service to London in the near future!

    • Delta would love to pick and choose the LCC’s but they can’t because its illegal. The airport has to let anyone in for the most part.

      I doubt London is coming back, especially given that they can get people from anywhere to there in one stop with no problem

  49. DougOH says:

    Yes, I agree DL is potentially opening themselves up to competition, by giving up 22 gates. Each of the current tenants in terminal A – CO, US, AA, and UA really only need perhaps 2 gates each. A LLC could feasibly run a nice hub with 12 or 14 remaining gates – but I doubt Airtran can stomach competing with DL in yet another hub. Jetblue might be interested in using CVG to connect the dots better between their east and west coast cities, considering that JFK does not make an ideal connecting hub being so far northeast, and with severe congestion problems!

    But I think if Jetblue or other LLC including Southwest were to go in and eventually work its way up to 100+ flights a day, Delta would just probably walk away from their lease when it expires in 2015 – dismantle the hub, and just maintain flights to other hub cities and select business markets.

  50. DougOH says:

    If anybody can verify for sure, looks like CVG will be back up to 35 mainline departures daily this summer from the 28 listed at the beginning of this thread. I also count another 24 daily flights on 76-seat jets with first class, which I believe did not exist in 2007. No, this isn’t the same as 64 mainline departures from 2007, but still pretty good service and not a wholesale abandonment of CVG.

  51. DougOH says:

    Not counting weekend flights to the Carribean, looks like the summer schedule out of Memphis has 45 mainline flights, and 34 larger RJ’s with 1st class, daily. Many of the mainline flights are on old NW DC9’s – what is likely to eventually replace those?

  52. Memphis says:

    I would guess the CRJ-900 to replace the DC9’s. I’m not sure if the 900’s have first class or not but the capacity is similar to a DC9 though.

    Compass has a few EMB 175’s with first class going out of there this summer but rumor is they are moving out in September.

    What always cautioned me about the Delta/NW merger was how numerous Deltas regional airlines were. I mean, how many regional partners do you need?

  53. Just an update. Compass already pulled out of Memphis, on or about the first of June 2010. Compass was also purchased by Trans States Airlines. Pinnacle Airlines just bought Mesaba Airlines, around the first of July 2010. Pinnacle Airlines has stated they want to separate their fleet between propeller driven and jet driven, giving all the propeller driven aircraft to Mesaba. Pinnacle will be taking over the leases of Mesaba CRJ-900. Pinnacle is Memphis TN based, and Mesaba is Eagan MN based.

  54. Great blog post once again. I think it is a testament to how tumultuous the commercial aviation industry is and how quick it changes.

    Well, time to write a new blog post about Delta in MEM. I think CVG is looking a little better than MEM now with DHL coming back in and at least some one is in Mesabas’ old hanger doing mod lines. Sorry to hear about Comair though.

    The latest statistic I can up with surfing around the net with regards to Delta/NW is… In 2006 Northwest was running 225 flights through MEM. As of Jan 2013, that number is down to 94. Yes…. Ninety Four.

    Delta apparently wants to get rid of all the 50 seaters now, and has placed an order for 70-90 something CRJ 700-900. Don’t know the exact specifics. Pinnacle pilots ratified a contract and I read somewhere that after the signing 1/3 of them were going to get laid off.

    AND, pinnacle MX base in MEM is closing, I believe the hanger is closed as of now and flight line by April 2013 with all corporate offices moving to MSP.

    Southwest schedule is???

    I’d like to see you write up on a post about Memphis now…if it’s newsworthy ;-)

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