Queen City flights stopped: Airline discontinues Cincinnati flight and emphasizes Detroit


May 25--CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Starting in September, for the first time in more than 25 years, there won't be any direct flights linking Charleston and Cincinnati.

Yeager Airport Director Rick Atkinson said Delta will discontinue its one daily direct flight to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport but will add a flight to Detroit.

The announcement comes as Delta continues to de-emphasize the Cincinnati airport. Delta cut 30 percent of its flights at Cincinnati in 2005. Since then it has cut more.

Cincinnati's Sunday Enquirer reported the airport now offers direct flights to just half the U.S. cities it once did; that half the airport now sits empty; and that only one of Cincinnati's four European flights, to Paris, remains.

Since merging with Northwest Air in 2008, Delta has been emphasizing Detroit, which has a $1.2 billion terminal that Northwest designed.

Atkinson said having three round-trip flights daily linking Charleston and Detroit will be good for this region's travelers.

"If Delta's going to have Cincinnati as a focus city and have Detroit and Atlanta be their main hubs, you've got to have connections to the main hubs," he said. "Two flights to Detroit and one to Cincinnati did not help most travelers. You need to have a full schedule in one place or the other."

When the change takes effect, flights to Detroit will depart from Charleston daily at 6:15 a.m., 11:50 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Flights from Detroit will arrive in Charleston at 11:25 a.m., 2:40 p.m. and 10:45 p.m. The new service will be the late morning flight from Charleston and the mid-afternoon flight from Detroit.

"The Detroit hub has great international connections," Atkinson said. "Northwest was always strong in Asia. You may recall their original name was 'Northwest Orient Airlines.'"

Of the 10 hubs Charleston connects to, Detroit offers the only nonstop flight to Nagoya, Japan, where Toyota is headquartered, Atkinson said. "Nagoya was always one of Yeager's largest international markets," he said.

"The new Detroit terminal is really nice," Atkinson said. "It's one of the easiest airports to get around in. It has a train that can take you from one end of the terminal to the other. The concessions and the shopping are nice."

Yeager had three daily flights to Detroit until 2008. The service was cut to two flights about the same time Delta and Northwest merged.

When a third flight is added in September, it will be possible to fly from Charleston to Nagoya without an overnight stay in Detroit, said Brian Belcher, Yeager's director of marketing and air service development.

Delta has been flying only one flight to and from Cincinnati since April. "Now there are just no connections there," Atkinson said. "They (the Cincinnati airport) are going to be what Pittsburgh is today."

The Pittsburgh airport underwent a major downsizing several years ago when US Airways de-emphasized it.

Atkinson said 1,327 passengers flew to or from Cincinnati and Charleston last year with either city as a destination, such as an area resident who might have flown to the Queen City to see a Reds game. He said 51,663 passengers flew to or from Cincinnati and Charleston last year with Cincinnati as a connection.

Starting in September, Charleston travelers who want to fly to Cincinnati will need to fly first to either Atlanta or Detroit. That means driving to Cincinnati will be quicker.

Contact writer George Hohmann at business@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.