The Columbus Experiment

May 8, 2003

Charter Activity

Prior to the creation of the Columbus Regional Airport Authority (CRAA), Rickenbacker International Airport (LCK) was in the process of building a charter airline terminal. Nearly completed, CRAA now hopes to move at least 10,000 passengers through the facility this year to make the airport eligible for a $1 million entitlement. The charter terminal features two gates and has customs on-site to accommodate international flights. "It was designed to cater to the charter passenger," Elaine Roberts says, CRAA president and CEO. We’re now working very hard to get some commitments for on-going, regular charters."

CMH Air Service Challenges

Walking through Terminal B of Port Columbus International Airport, one might assume that America West Airlines’ decision to pull its hub here would leave quite a gap in air service to Columbus. Yet, airport officials "[aren’t] looking back."

While the airline is expected to keep four daily flights from the airport, there is a good possibility that the nine hold rooms and 10 gates, totaling some 45,000 square feet, will remain largely empty through 2004.

David Whitaker

"Space is probably the single largest issue for us," explains David Whitaker, VP business development and communications for Columbus Regional Airport Authority (CRAA). The airport does have the benefit of a lease with America West through 2004, leaving the airline obligated to pay for the space as well as being responsible for maintenance and upkeep of the leased area.

America West does have some sublease rights, Whitaker says, but the airport has the right of review of those. Another option would be an early return of the space, "in other words, a buy out," he says. "We’re not sure that would be of interest to them, but if they were interested, we could discuss the early return of that space by an up-front payment of their obligations."

There has been expressed interest for the America West space from other airlines at CMH, particularly in regards to the regional jet boarding bridges. "That’s a terrific asset," Whitaker says. "More than 50 percent of our departures are on regional jet aircraft."

In total, America West’s decision eliminates 45 flights from CMH. However, shortly after this announcement, Delta Airlines announced it would add eleven flights per day, while American Airlines announced four additional flights per day.

According to executive director Elaine Roberts, the airport will lose some $1.3 million in landing fees by the end of the year because of America West’s reduced schedule.

Whitaker explains that although the airline was banking flights, there was not much transfer of passengers, "We’ve calculated that less than three percent of their enplanements here were connecting passengers."

"We think there’s definitely going to be life after America West here in Columbus," says Whitaker. "We regret their decision, but we’re not looking back.