American Eagle flight 5297 to Charlotte taxis to the runway at Toledo Express Airport on Monday.
Before American Airlines introduced American Eagle commuter flights between Toledo and Charlotte a year ago, business travel for Perrysburg-based Automation & Control Technologies was often a challenge.
“It was a real hassle. If we had to go at the drop of a hat, we would pay an arm and a leg out of Detroit,” said Michael Farrar, the company’s president.
The alternatives, he said, were an often “miserable” connection through Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport or connecting through Newark, N.J., or Washington, which also was “really a pain.”
A missed connection could force postponement of a day’s worth of company meetings or customer calls near the company’s Monroe, N.C., office. And even when flight schedules held, driving to North Carolina often made more sense, with one employee at the wheel and another making business calls, Mr. Farrar said.
Count Mr. Farrar and his staff as repeat customers among the 54,689 total passengers who, as of a week ago, had boarded an American Eagle flight between Toledo Express Airport and Charlotte since the twice-daily service began Aug. 22, 2017.
That number represents 82 percent of the available seats, a load factor that Joe Rotterdam, the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority’s manager of airport operations and airline affairs, said is why American’s commuter affiliate will boost the size of aircraft on the route Sept. 5 from 50 seats to 63 seats, with the larger planes including nine first-class seats and eight in a “main cabin extra” section.
And the deployment of larger planes bodes well for future service expansion, Mr. Rotterdam said, as that has been the first step American has taken in other cities where it later added more flights.
Just as encouraging to the airport manager is that the Charlotte service has used less than 40 percent of the $1 million revenue guarantee — including a $750,000 federal grant and $250,000 in matching port authority funds — that was provided to American to promote the route’s introduction.
Of the $346,931 spent during the first nine months of service, $224,242 occurred during the first three, when the route was just starting up. Only $19,490 was spent during the seventh through ninth months, Mr. Rotterdam said, and the last of that was paid in February.
“It shows the route is maturing fairly quickly,” Mr. Rotterdam said.
Providing a safety net for start-up routes “is a necessity to attract new service of this nature,” he said while noting that airlines don’t introduce routes they expect will fail just to get the subsidy money.
With Charlotte as a “successful proof of concept,” Mr. Rotterdam said, the port authority is optimistic that American will give Toledo serious consideration for new service to other cities — particularly Dallas-Fort Worth, its largest system hub, or Philadelphia, which has evolved into the airline’s European gateway.
“We haven’t had a true East Coast hub since we lost Pittsburgh [on US Airways] in 2004,” Mr. Rotterdam said, noting that only a small number of Charlotte connections have been to the northeast.
And American’s success in Toledo could lure other carriers back into the local market, he said. Delta Airlines, operator of the major hub in Detroit, dropped its last Toledo service in early 2011, while United Airlines has been gone from northwest Ohio since 1992.
Mr. Farrar said that except for a trip to Nashville, his company’s travel on the year-old route has been entirely to and from Charlotte.
“It’s been great. The flight prices have been reasonable and it’s a great direct flight,” he said, noting that even when the walk-up fares are the same as out of Detroit, the convenience and lower cost of flying out of Toledo are favorable.
Mr. Rotterdam said about 30 to 35 percent of passengers on the Toledo-Charlotte route aren’t making connections, which is well above the Charlotte hub’s average of about 20 percent.
Furthermore, the airport manager said, the load factor — percentage of seats sold — on American Eagle’s Toledo-Chicago route has increased since the Charlotte route launched.
That, he suspects, is a result of travelers having two hub options for connecting flights out of Toledo and a resulting boost in the numbers signing up for American’s loyalty program because they expect to use the local airport more often.
Contact David Patch at: [email protected] or 419-724-6094.
Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don’t attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. Comments that violate these standards, or our privacy statement or visitor’s agreement, are subject to being removed and commenters are subject to being banned. To post comments, you must be a registered user on toledoblade.com. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.
- White-tailed eagles to soar again in southern Britain’s skies
- Wreaths tribute to Mi Amigo crewmen buried in American Cemetery
- Giant white-tailed eagles set to be introduced to Isle of Wight could ‘eat PETS and sheep’
- Baywatch star Charlotte McKinney shows off her perfect posture in lingerie shoot
- Golden Eagles had a special place in the lives of Neanderthals
- Fautasi Fiva 2019: Aeto will soar to #1 says Chief Pulu
- Rory McIlroy is Dustin Johnson's closest challenger at WGC-Mexico Championship but he is four shots off the American
- Schools' Cup final LIVE: Methody soar to seven try success over old rivals Campbell College
- Schools' Cup final: Methody soar to seven try success over old rivals Campbell College
- American Gods, season 2 review: beautiful, psychedelic, and one hell of a ride if watched without cynicism