Airline mergers could mean fewer flights to regional airports

The industry is trending toward reducing the number of small airport destinations, favoring instead to fly into larger hubs


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The recently approved American Airlines and US Airways merger could soon mean fewer flights from fewer airports, including regional destinations like Manchester-Boston Regional Airport and Theodore F. Green State Airport in Providence. And the flights that remain will be more expensive and on smaller aircraft -- and that may push some airports to downsize.

The airline industry is trending toward reducing the number of small airport destinations, favoring instead to fly into larger hubs, such as Boston’s Logan Airport. In 2012, Logan Airport reported record numbers of travelers, while Manchester-Boston Regional Airport saw a 10 percent drop and Providence saw a 6 percent drop. Recent news reports have highlighted Manchester’s traffic woes, indicating that flights in and out of the regional airport have dropped 50 percent since its heyday in 2005.

When you think New England, if you’re not flying out of Boston, you’re not getting there anymore. The American airline industry has seen many changes in the past decade, from the growth of discount airlines to recent airline mergers. What was once a vibrant industry that offered passengers low-cost tickets to thousands of locations has now become an industry synonymous with bad service, fewer flights and shrinking airplane seats. With reduced flights in and out of New England’s regional destinations, smaller airports in the Northeast are feeling the effects.

The reason for post-merger drops in flights is a cost-cutting measure. If United has flights from Manchester to Orlando and American also has flights from Boston to Orlando, the post-merger airline may only offer flights from Boston. The goal is to cut redundancy while pushing passengers who used to fly from Manchester or Providence into Boston’s Logan Airport.

Because the American brand is the one that’s sticking around, the routes that are likely going to be removed will be the ones from Providence and Manchester. United has flights to both Theodore F. Green State Airport and Manchester Boston-Regional Airport, but American Airlines does not.

If this trend continues it could produce results such as fewer travel options for passengers in New England, increased business costs for local business travelers and those flying into the region for business, as well as a continued drop in revenue at smaller airports.

Greg Raiff is CEO Private Jet Services Group, Seabrook.

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