Students planning to fly back into New Haven after winter break may need to make other arrangements.
Delta Air Lines announced last week that it will stop service to Tweed-New Haven Airport this January, cutting the regional airport’s passenger volume by a third and leaving it with only one carrier, U.S. Airways. Delta, which currently operates three flights daily from Tweed to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, has scaled back service to airports across the country after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy six weeks ago, Tweed Airport Authority Vice Chair Henry Fernandez LAW ’94 said.
Fernandez, who served as New Haven’s economic development administrator until this March, said Tweed officials are not worried about the airport’s financial solvency since it has recently made significant gains independent of last year’s addition of Delta.
“Since Delta came on … we’ve doubled the number of folks on U.S. Airways,” Fernandez said. “We’ve tripled the number of passengers over the last 18 months. We will lose a third of those, but overall we still have doubled the number of passengers using Tweed.”
Delta’s decision to stop service to Tweed was a result of the airline’s financial difficulties, not a lack of local demand, Fernandez said.
“It wasn’t really about Tweed,” Fernandez said. “It had a lot to do with Delta and their financial situation. They were billions of dollars in debt.”
Though Delta received $1.6 million this year from New Haven businesses to subsidize its Tweed operations, Fernandez said the airline approached the city to request additional funds, and was turned down by Tweed New Haven Airport Authority Chairman Lawrence DeNardis.
New Haven Deputy Director of Economic Development Tony Bialecki said that although he thinks Delta’s decision is unfortunate, there is still a demand for airline transportation in New Haven.
“There’s clearly a demand in the area and it has been shown that … people will in fact use [Tweed] if airlines come,” Bialecki said. “I think [recruiting new carriers] is always difficult, especially given the condition the major airlines are in right now, but … given the congestion in other airports, I think New Haven provides excellent opportunity for [airline growth].”
The Delta setback is only a temporary problem for Tweed, Office of New Haven and State Affairs Vice President Michael Morand ’87 said.
New Haven economist and WTNH commentator Don Klepper-Smith said it remains to be seen how successful Tweed will be at attracting new airline carriers, given the current instability of the national airline industry, but the situation looks promising.
“When you look at the airline industry in general, given current energy prices, they’re going to be a little careful on how they make their commitments,” Klepper-Smith said. “They will make sure there’s adequate and rising demand, and we’re clearly moving in the right direction [in that regard].”
While some students said Tweed’s loss of Delta would not effect their travel plans since they use U.S. Airways to fly out of Tweed, others said they were disappointed that Delta will no longer offer service. Charles Drucker ’08, who usually flies home to Los Angeles through Delta’s Cincinnati connection, said he would miss the convenience that the route offered.
“[Flying out of Tweed] was simple because it’s a $15 cab ride, the security doesn’t take long and it’s a nice small airport,” Drucker said. “Now, I’m just going to be going to Hartford a lot more often, which will make things a little more expensive in terms of the ground transport.”
Airport authorities are currently negotiating with other airlines, including American, United and DJ Air Group — which is seeking to create a low-fare carrier — to add service to Tweed, Fernandez said. He said Tweed officials are focusing on securing two or three additional airlines.
Delta also announced last week it would discontinue its low-cost carrier, Song, which operates non-stop flights between Hartford’s Bradley International Airport and destinations including Los Angeles, Orlando and Tampa. Delta will integrate Song into its general fleet.