July 16, 2008

Continental Adds 2 Regional Flight Links


Continental Airlines Inc. is expanding into two regional airports to shuttle more international travelers to its Newark hub, even as it plans to cut domestic and international routes.

Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport in Ithaca, N.Y., a college town with many international students, announced earlier this month that Continental will fly four times a day to Newark, beginning Oct. 2. Cornell University enrolled about 3,600 international students last year at its Ithaca campus.

Airport officials at Harrisburg International Airport said last week that the top carrier at Newark will start flying four times a day from there as well, also beginning Oct. 2. Scott Miller, deputy director of the Harrisburg airport, which is 170 miles from Newark, said Continental was drawn by demand from Harrisburg-area businesses, such as The Hershey Co., Rite Aid Corp., and Armstrong World Industries Inc., all of which want easier access to international flights.

Continental will use 37-seat turboprop aircraft on both routes.

The move will help Continental grab some market share from American Airlines as American's regional carrier, American Eagle, will end daily flights from Harrisburg to Chicago and Dallas/Fort Worth in the fall part of a plan to trim capacity by 11 percent or 12 percent.

Continental, which reports second-quarter earnings Thursday, is trying to maintain its strong international network as record-high fuel prices and a slowed economy have created one of the worst financial crises the industry has faced.

Analysts, on average, expect Continental to report a loss of 52 cents per share on sales of $4.04 billion for the second quarter, according to a survey by Thomson Financial.

Continental has said it will reduce capacity by 11 percent and eliminate 3,000 jobs. It will eliminate or reduce flights from Newark in September to nine cities. Like many other regional airports, Harrisburg will lose air transportation service to some areas this fall as airlines scale back to offset the cost of fuel and an anticipated decline in traffic.

"The Newark connection is something we've been talking about for years," Miller said.

Companies will benefit from easier access via Newark to such cities as Frankfurt, Germany; Dublin, Ireland; and London, he said.

"We have 210 businesses in the area that are either owned by or have ties to foreign companies," he said.

The Harrisburg airport handled 75,730 international passengers last year, an increase of 37 percent since 2002.


Bucking the trend

Continental Airlines will add new routes in selected markets even as it plans to downsize. Below are two new routes via Newark:

Route Begins Daily flights

Harrisburg Oct. 2 4

Ithaca Oct. 2 4

Sources: the Harrisburg and Ithaca airports


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