FWA loses Newark, regains Philly nonstop service

May 30th, 2018

By Doug LeDuc | Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly

United Airlines will discontinue its nonstop service between Fort Wayne and Newark, N.J. on July 1. But, Fort Wayne International Airport will still have a dozen year-round direct flights because American Airlines Group will resume nonstop service between the Summit City and Philadelphia on June 7.

Allegiant Airlines also plans to resume on June 8 seasonal nonstop service out of Fort Wayne to Myrtle Beach International Airport, which will last through Aug. 13, according to the Fort Wayne-Allen County Airport Authority.

A promotional campaign is marking the return of the Philadelphia service, which was announced in January.

The authority has a couple of employees in red, white and blue assigned to present themselves as “Mr. and Mrs. Patriotic” while roaming the terminal on a mission to help travelers get in the spirit of the upcoming July 4 holiday by celebrating the launch of its most patriotic destination – Philadelphia.

The campaign designed to increase the route’s visibility started May 1 and will conclude July 4. Mr. and Mrs. Patriotic are handing out contact cards, which passengers can complete for a chance to win a roundtrip ticket to Philadelphia.

The cards also are at the welcome center on the terminal’s second floor. Taking a picture of themselves with Mr. or Mrs. Patriotic and posting it on social media with the hashtag #MrandMrsPatriotic gives passengers a second chance to win the drawing.

A picture taken with a cardboard cutout of them near gates 5-8 will do if they cannot be located.

The winner will be announced July 6.

“We have had several passengers post pictures on social media in regard to the campaign, and have had several contact cards submitted,” said Rebecca Neild, the authority’s air service and marketing manager.

Philadelphia was a major hub of the former U.S. Airways, which merged with American in December 2013. The combined company announced the following May that it would offer a direct route between Fort Wayne and Philadelphia that October.

The route remained in place until August 2016, at which point American was “disappointed that they had to come out, but they had some other issues,” Scott Hinderman, the authority’s executive director of airports, had said in January after announcing the route’s return. “They were pulling down a lot of flights out of Philadelphia, just because they had some of their own constraints.”

From nearly two years of experience American had with that route in Fort Wayne, “they know that the market is here, they know the activity we can get, so they selected us to go back in to Philadelphia,” he had said. Indiana Economic Development Corp. “is not in this game; we are not incentivizing them.”

The route had performed well when the Summit City had it before and had captured the bulk of Fort Wayne’s service to Philadelphia, Hinderman said earlier this month.

Because it is in the northeastern United States, the Philadelphia hub would have been in direct competition with the Newark hub for flights making connections in that region of the country, he said, if the nonstop service to Newark were not coming to an end.

Hinderman and United spokesman Jonathan Guerin pointed out that United will continue providing nonstop service between Fort Wayne and Chicago. And travelers can fly between Chicago and Newark or New York City.

“We continually review demand for travel in all of the markets we serve, and due to low demand, we made the decision to discontinue service between Fort Wayne and Newark,” Guerin said.

During a presentation on Fort Wayne’s air service last November, Rhett Morgan, director of Ailevon Pacific Aviation Consulting, had said among all the cities where United offered nonstop service to Newark, Fort Wayne had the lowest load factor.

The average load factor for all direct flights to Newark was between 85 percent and 88 percent. And the load factor for the Fort Wayne flights headed there tended to fall more between 50 percent and 56 percent, Hinderman said.

The Newark route was capturing nearly all of Fort Wayne’s traffic going to New York City as a destination, he said, but it was not getting enough traffic using Newark as a jumping-off point to other destinations to justify its continuation.

“When they announced the decision to withdraw … they also removed Newark direct service from Baltimore, Des Moines, Hartford, Chattanooga, Ithaca, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton,” Hinderman said. “They’re trying to figure out where their best routes are.”

“Yes, we lost New York service; nobody wants to see that happen. But connectivity out of Philadelphia is amazing; it’s in the top six hubs in the country,” he said.

The Philadelphia hub will link with great connecting flights to New York, he said.

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