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Philadelphia, Washington, and Mesa, Ariz., appear to be the strongest prospective destinations for new air service from Toledo Express Airport, a Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority consultant told the agency’s airport committee Monday.
And after years of declining service, Toledo’s modest rebound in passenger traffic last year should be encouraging to potential carriers, said Greg Atkin, an air-service strategy and development consultant with Sixel Consulting Group.
Toledo has produced “above-average yields” for American Airlines in recent times, and American’s merger with US Airways could put former US Airways hubs in Philadelphia and Charlotte in play for new flights, Mr. Atkin said, noting that Philadelphia will be the combined airline’s largest northeastern hub.
“Their strength in the northeastern states provides a better chance for Toledo service to the Northeast,” he said.
Washington’s Dulles International Airport will be a major growth focus, meanwhile, for United Airlines now that it has announced plans to close the former Continental hub in Cleveland, the consultant said.
Toledo service is much less likely, Mr. Atkin said, from either Delta Air Lines or Southwest Airlines. Delta is unlikely to see benefit from shifting travelers who now drive to Detroit to board its flights, he said, while Southwest is now focusing its efforts on big-city airports instead of the secondary cities for which it once was famous.
Those four carriers account for 83 percent of the United States air-travel market, Mr. Atkin noted to the committee.
American, with four weekday round trips between Toledo and Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport — fewer on weekends — on its American Eagle feeder service is the only one of those four dominant players to serve the local airport.
Delta withdrew its last Toledo commuter flights three years ago, United pulled out in the early 1990s, and Southwest has never come closer than Detroit except for emergency landings after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Passenger traffic at Express grew by 11 percent last year, to 159,295 travelers from 143,514 in 2012, with American and Allegiant Airlines accounting for all but a few thousand charter passengers.
Allegiant, which passed American Eagle to become Toledo’s busiest airline last year, is thriving in the “ultra-low cost carrier” segment and has recently added planes suitable for transcontinental travel, the consultant said.
That could put Toledo in play for Allegiant flights to the Mesa airport, near Phoenix, he said, but Allegiant’s sun-and-sand market focus means they’re not the carrier to turn to for flights to highly desired northeastern markets. The airline now flies twice or three times weekly between Toledo and three Florida destinations.
Sixel, a port authority air-service consultant for more than a decade, has meetings planned with United officials and will arrange similar contact with American once the merged airline’s planning department settles into place, Mr. Atkin said.
“Once they have the right people in the right seats, we’ll immediately engage them on East Coast service,” he told the airport committee.
Mr. Atkin said the most important thing Toledoans can do to turn such prospects into reality is to fly from Toledo Express whenever practical.
Mayor D. Michael Collins’ announcement immediately after taking office last month that air travel on official city business will use Toledo Express whenever possible needs to be built upon, he said.
“Continue pushing as many people as possible to use Toledo,” Mr. Atkin said when Jerry Chabler, the airport committee’s chairman, asked what the port authority and its staff could do to promote air service at Express.
Contact David Patch at: email@example.com or 419-724-6094.