America West Eliminates Unprofitable Columbus Hub
America West Airlines, the nation's second largest low-fare
airline, announced Monday that it is eliminating hub operations in
Columbus (OH), and, as a result, phasing 12 regional jets out of
the America West Express fleet.
"The airline industry continues to face very difficult economic
conditions, and the outlook for the foreseeable future offers
little relief," said Douglas Parker, chairman and chief executive
officer. "A necessary and critical component of restoring industry
profitability is the elimination of consistently unprofitable
flying. While it's clear that the airline industry's hub-and-spoke
system is here to stay, it is also clear that we, as an industry,
have far too many hubs.
"America West simply will not retain unprofitable portions of
its operation in hopes that things might one day get better. To
that end, we have made the decision to discontinue utilizing
Columbus as a hub within the America West network and to
concentrate our assets in our stronger hubs in Phoenix and Las
Vegas," added Parker. "This is a most difficult decision for us
because it impacts our loyal customers, the city of Columbus and,
most importantly, our employees. However, as we look ahead it is
clear that this is the right decision -- a step we must take to
enhance America West's financial position, which will benefit
everyone associated with our airline in the long run."
Still on the route, though...
While it no longer will be a hub, Columbus will
remain an integral part of America West's network as a field
station, or destination city. Between early April and mid-June,
America West will gradually downsize the hub to a planned four
mainline flights per day to Phoenix and Las Vegas. Today, Columbus
accounts for 49 daily departures to 15 destinations.
"America West established Columbus as part of a strategy to
connect passengers within the southern and central United States to
East Coast markets," said Scott Kirby, executive vice president,
Sales and Marketing. "However, as flights from our primary hubs of
Phoenix and Las Vegas grew to major East Coast markets, the value
of Columbus as a connecting hub has diminished."
According to Kirby, a number of other factors have also changed
in recent years. "Due to the large number of regional jets now
deployed by many airlines throughout the east, an abundance of
capacity exists relative to demand in the markets served by
Columbus today. Additionally, Columbus has seen a much larger
decline in profitability during this economic downturn than the
rest of our system."
As a result, he said, despite America West's best efforts to
improve financial performance, the airline is incurring losses of
approximately $25 million per year from its Columbus hub
As part of the downsizing of the hub, beginning
April 1 America West will phase 12 Columbus-based regional jets,
all of which are currently operated by Chautauqua Airlines under
the America West Express banner, out of its fleet. The aircraft,
which form the nucleus of America West's hub in Columbus, are
scheduled to be fully transitioned out of the fleet by mid-June.
All 12 jets will remain with Chautauqua.
"Chautauqua Airlines has been a valuable partner to America West
in Columbus, and we regret having to end our very close
relationship," said Kirby. "As a regional partner to other major
airlines, Chautauqua understands the difficulties facing our
industry and has been very supportive of our position."
About 65 America West employees will remain in Columbus. The
remainder of the approximately 400 Columbus-based employees will be
offered the opportunity to transfer to other positions within
America West. Those who choose not to relocate will receive
"We take this action with particularly mixed emotions," said
Parker. "Our employees in Columbus are outstanding. They've done a
great job over the years of building a hub, representing America
West in the community and providing wonderful service to our
customers. We are hopeful that all of them will remain a part of
the America West team. Those choosing not to will be treated fairly
and with respect.
"Likewise, business and political leaders in Columbus and
throughout Ohio have been incredibly supportive of America West.
Fortunately for the people of Columbus, America West faced major
airline competition on nearly every route that we are
discontinuing, so the city will not lose significant non- stop
service to any market."
LaGuardia goes away, though...
With the downsizing of Columbus, America West must
eliminate service to New York City LaGuardia Airport because
perimeter rules at that airport prohibit flights beyond 1,500
miles. This precludes service from America West's hubs in Phoenix
and Las Vegas. However, the airline will continue to serve the New
York metropolitan area through both John F. Kennedy and Newark
International Airports. With the exception of LaGuardia, no other
year-round America West destination will be closed as a result of
the elimination of the Columbus hub.