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Low-Cost Fare War Takes Toll at Airport

HOWLAND TOWNSHIP, Ohio — The passenger count during the month of May at the Youngstown/Warren Regional Airport was the highest of the year so far — “such that it is,” says the aviation director — as low-cost carriers mount stiff competition at airports in Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Akron.

At Wednesday’s meeting of the Western Reserve Port Authority board of directors, Dan Dickten reports there were 6,453 total enplanements and deplanements on Allegiant Air flights and charter aircraft during May. Allegiant accounted for 5,911 total passengers on 21 flights.

“We’re down like most of the other secondary airports are down now due to the competition,” Dickten said.

Allegiant fares at Youngstown-Warren now are higher than fares charged at Cleveland and Pittsburgh airports by Allegiant, Spirit and Frontier, he noted. People see the $3 to $4 difference and opt for the competing airports, but don’t realize they won’t save money in the long run because of transportation expenses and higher parking fees.

“But the big thing right now is this fare war and competition. We’re just saturated,” he continued.

Activity by ultra-low-cost carriers in northeastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania has increased twentyfold from when Youngstown-Warren was the controlling airport in that segment, with Allegiant’s entry into the market in 2006.

“We actually had the only ultra-low-cost carrier here at Youngstown-Warren for a good number of years. We rode that wave until about 2013, 2014 and now they’re everywhere,” he said. “Until that fare war is over, it’s not going to get any better.”

The board also heard from Anthony Trevena, head of the Northeast Ohio Development and Finance Authority, WRPA’s economic development division, that a July 10 groundbreaking was expected for LRC Realty’s Enclave student housing project near Youngstown State University.

The port authority, through its economic development division, has provided about $30 million in financing for student housing projects at YSU over the past year and a half, and there is a “good chance” of another one, Trevena said.

The port authority also approved a three-year lease with NYO Property Group, Youngstown, for the economic development division’s offices at Penguin Place. The port authority will pay $1,500 per month for the space.

Following the meeting, board attorney Dan Keating said he has filed a response Friday to Aerodynamics Inc.’s counterclaim to the port authority’s suit filed in May. The litigation has been transferred from Trumbull County Common Pleas Court to U.S. District Court in Youngstown.

Georgia-based ADI, in the countersuit filed May 25, asserted that it never misled the port authority about interline agreements between the company and any connecting carrier when it launched daily service last summer.

In its response, the port authority said it decided to proceed with ticket sales and the flights “only after being assured” by ADI that interline agreements with in place with both United Airlines and American Airlines.

The next step in the legal process is a case management conference, which is set for Aug. 2, Keating said. The attorney said he will be unavailable that date so he would seek a continuance.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.