CVG – Nibbled to Death

Hello there, Godzilla here. I know it’s been a while since I’ve graced the pages of PlaneBuzz, so to speak. I won’t give the old “I’ve been too busy” because I hate when people use that as an excuse. No, I’ve not been too busy to write, perhaps I didn’t think I had anything of value to add, though some would say I never let that stop me before. I’ve been filling my time doing some very un-airline/aviation stuff, some would say going back to my routes, er, roots. I’ll fill you in later on that though, because I want to talk about the Texas – Two Step Delta is doing with their hub in Cincinnati.COMAIR_RJ.jpg
An article on yesterday outlined Delta’s plan to further reduce their CVG hub by another 12% this coming January. This cut follows a steady diet of previous reductions and downsizing/rightsizing or whatever the MBA catchphrase of the moment, that have been occurring for the past 4 years.
The truth is that reducing or eliminating CVG as a hub made sense even without the merger of Northwest, but adding the three NW hubs to the mix (affectionately known as Snow-town, Mo-town, and No-town), CVG is definitely superfluous. The problem is that the DL/NW merger is supposed to be a merger of addition and not subtraction. Uh-huh. According to the article January 2009 flying from CVG will be 33% less than January 2008.
As I said, that makes sense. What is irritating is the PR spin being put on the bad news so that the community actually thinks it is good news. Speaking about the announced reductions, the chairman of the Kenton County Airport Board, which controls CVG operations said –
“This is good news in that it keeps things pretty much as they are, but I would not say it is wonderful news,”
Well Mr. Chairman, the news might be good but the truth is not-so-good. Fully 85% of the operations at CVG will be in RJ equipment, and the number of banks at CVG will be reduced from 9 to 5. Glen Hauenstein is the person in charge of rationalizing the two route systems, which is not an easy task. However turning CVG into an RJ hub and giving it until the summer of 2009 to turn a profit is akin to throwing a drowning man an anchor.
“We really wanted to keep the hub there because of its location, layout and the great facilities, but it took us awhile to figure out how to do it,” Hauenstein said. “So Delta is now reaffirming its commitment to the Cincinnati hub through the summer season of next year and then we’ll take another barometer reading on how the economy is doing.”
That’s nice. We all remember how well the Independence Airlines hub did at IAD, right? They helped prove that the RJ isn’t a low cost machine, it’s a point-to-point O&D bird. Taking the wrong airplane and running it through a hub that used to have 9 banks and now will only have 5 means that the cost of operation at CVG for DL is going to be higher. The only semi-good news in all of this is that the CVG fares are high, which means DL will lose money more slowly, unless the economy continues to tank.
Although I don’t agree with it, I understand the need to be politically sensitive to air service issues, especially during a merger. Perhaps if I had been more politically correct my airline career would have been longer, though this is more fun anyway. But DL is better off saying as little as possible about it rather than trying to spin the reduction as a way to “coordinate times between two hubs [DTW and CVG]”.
“That way we can offer two medium-sized hubs with better connectivity and efficiency to compete with one mega-hub (for rivals American and United) in Chicago,” Hauenstein said. “This is all about connections and making those more plentiful. Now we can offer a traveler in say, Albany, connections through Atlanta, JFK, Detroit, Minneapolis and yes, Cincinnati – you get something nobody has been able to offer you before. And Cincinnati is a part of all of that.”
Well it sounds to me like a phased reduction into oblivion, which by the way Is a good decision. The spin doctors should have left this one alone though.