July 30, 2008

Will Rogers Loses 5 Direct Connections

By Steve Lackmeyer, The Oklahoman

Jul. 30--Oklahoma City's Will Rogers World Airport is losing direct connections to five of 22 cities and will see an overall 13 percent cut in flights and seats per day as the airline industry continues to struggle with rising fuel costs.

Mark Kranenburg, director of airports for Oklahoma City, said Tuesday that flights are being cut, even though they might be filled with passengers, due to fuel costs and not a route's success. Despite the cuts, he said, Will Rogers World Airport is faring "better than average."

"We think Oklahoma City is doing so well, especially with the NBA coming to town, that we were in an excellent position to do more recruiting," Kranenburg said. "And maybe this will allow some carriers to recognize opportunities where others have cut connections to cities and step in and pick them up."

Kranenburg said Oklahoma City will continue to pursue increased flight connections and will be ready to act quickly on any potential opportunity. He notes that Delta Airlines is planning to add another regional jet flight to Atlanta and Cincinnati.

A historic shift in the industry Bob McAdoo, a senior airline analyst with Avondale Partners, said the industry is going through a historic shift that is hitting the entire country. He predicted any recruiting of new service will be a tough prospect going through September.

"They don't want to take the time to develop new markets right now -- they want to go to things you know work," McAdoo said. "Once things stabilize, then they might look at new opportunities."

Frequent flier doesn't notice cuts But frequent flier Patrick Boylan is barely noticing the cuts, even as he travels weekly to destinations around the country to set up convention displays. Boylan, owner of PDC Productions in Norman, said the expanded service was "great," but he's also not surprised some of those same expansions like ExpressJet's service to Albuquerque are being cut.

"We've had an incredibly good run here lately ever since Continental started service to Newark," Boylan said. "We then saw Southwest add Las Vegas, and then flights to places like Albuquerque."

Boylan doesn't think the cuts reflect poorly on Oklahoma City's demand for more airline service.

"Everything is staying pretty full -- and that's good," Boylan said. "They need to be full."


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