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Port Columbus Passengers Would Have Fewer Options Under Merger

Airline passengers at Port Columbus could see fewer flight options and higher fares if two big airlines successfully challenge an anti-trust suit. American and U-S Air account for more than 25% of all flights into and out of Port Columbus. The two airlines want to combine their services and vow to challenge a federal effort to stop the merger. Port Columbus Vice president David Whitaker says airline mergers during the past five years have had a direct impact on passenger fares. "They've gone up without a doubt. So, they've gone up across the board. All airports are experiencing that. And we still maintain a very competitive position from an airfare persepctive," says Whitaker. On average, airfares at Port Columbus have increased ten percent in the past five years. If American and U-S Air eventually merge, Port Columbus would be left with eight carriers. Whitaker says after earlier mergers the number of flights offered by the combined airline is reduced. So there's less frequent service to some cities. Whitaker says the airport has also lost rental income when newly merged airlines close ticket windows. Passenger traffic at Port Columbus dropped sharply in 2008 and 2009 during the Great Recession and has barely recovered since then. Last year 6,300,000 passengers flew into and out of Columbus. Whitaker predicts little change in passenger traffic regardless of the merger outcome between American and U-S Air. "It's looking flat just from what we're hearing and seeing from the carriers as they fly the right amount of seats to the right market. So, the trend unfortunately in recent years and from what we can see in the short term future is flat." says Whitaker. Port Columbus also faces competition for passengers from other airports in Dayton, Toledo, and Akron. Whitaker says a recent in-house study shows that 93% of airline passengers who live in the Columbus region use Port Columbus rather than other regional airports.