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Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport: Delta keeps Cincinnati the most expensive US airport

Cincinnati’s reputation as the airport with the most expensive air fares for passengers is supported by analysis from the US DOT’s Office of Aviation Analysis which publishes quarterly reviews of airport and route fares based on actual ticket data. For the last two years Cincinnati (CVG) has consistently had the highest fare premium of any major US airport, and frequently by quite some distance.

Chart: Fares at Cincinnati 2004-2007
Source: US DOT Office of Aviation Analysis

Logo: Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International AirportDuring 2007 CVG’s fares were, on average, 85% more expensive that the US average when adjusted for sector length. No other major airport had a fare premium of over 30% in 2007. The airport is dominated by Delta and its regional partner Comair who are responsible for almost 90% of the airport’s capacity.

Image: Horse Trails at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport
During 2007 CVG’s fares were, on average, 85% more expensive that the US average. However, this need be no barrier to recreational travel around the airport where riders can use the airport’s horse trials free of charge (you have to undergo a background check).

In August 2004 Delta used CVG to test out its new fare structure which went under the name ‘Simplifares’. As a result CVG’s fare premium started to fall and in early 2005, when Simplifares was rolled out across the entire Delta domestic network, CVG’s fare premium was ‘only’ 17%.

Unfortunately when Delta entered chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September 2005 the Simpilfares experiment was abandoned and average fares once again increased rapidly. Airport charges at CVG are below the national average but Delta’s dominance is creating a strong barrier to entry for LCCs while the other US ‘legacy’ carriers seem content to merely feed their own hubs.


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