Monday, November 18, 2013

Thode: LVIA Disappointing Airtravel

Dr. Steve Thode is the Lehigh University's Real Estate Studies, and as you might have guessed, gets around quite a bit. That puts him in a better position than most to gauge this area's air travel. As an academic, he's kicked things up a notch, looking at the FAA's own passenger stats. Here's what he says in an email to Allentown blogger Michael Molovinsky and me.

I've attached the FAA passenger stats for US airports for CY 2011 and CY 2012. Note: FAA only counts enplanements, so multiply by two to get a rough estimate of total passenger traffic. Note, as well, the FAA does not count the United Bus like [LVIA Executive Director] Everett, [Airport Board Chair] Iannelli and the board have chosen to include in "their" numbers.

Even during the days when LVIA exceeded 1 million passengers (2000 and 2004), LVIA ranked around 114 nationally. In 2011, it dropped to 124 and to 141 in 2012.

Two things are worth noting. LVIA did recover from 9/11 - even though it meant the elimination of mainline service from many carriers (the rise of those 50-seat regional jets as a substitute). But, LVIA is not faring well in the consolidation going on in the industry. The Delta-Northwest merger resulted in reduced flights out of LVIA as did the United-Continental merger (no more DC flights, no more Cleveland flights, reduced service to Chicago). The Southwest/AirTran merger resulted in the elimination of AirTran service out of LVIA (Southwest sold all the AirTran Boeing 717s and flies only 737s). The USAirways-American merger (and associated financial challenges of both carriers) has eliminated the last "mainline" service at LVIA (USAirways to and from Charlotte), and may lead to the substitution of busses to PHL.

Simultaneously, United and USAirways have increased fares out of LVIA relative to PHL and Newark (not sure about Delta which doesn't have a big presence at either of those airports).

Business travel out of LVIA has always been fragile. The total traffic numbers in the early 2000s were inflated by the Doughty/Krauter regime by luring thinly-capitalized budget airlines to LVIA for leisure travel to Florida. Remember Southern Airlines? Hooters? DirectAir? All went belly-up - and often left LVIA holding the bag.

Ironically, the biggest impact may be Southwest's large and growing presence at PHL. That has forced USAirways to cut fares dramatically out of PHL which certainly hurts LVIA's ability to attract business travelers. But also, it hurts LVIA's leisure travel counts as Valley residents can now fly Southwest out of PHL to just about anywhere. Cheaply.

Someone like Dr. Thode would be ideal as a board member at the Lehigh and Northampton Airport Authority. This Board, which is too large, is composed of what seems to be far too many political appointees.

Spoken, where Larry Kauter went from LVIA, has about five times as many passengers as we have here. But it has a seven-member board as opposed to the 17-member board in Allentown.

Nine months ago, they hired Charles Everett as their new Executive Director, and Board Chair Tony Iannelli likened it to the "early stages of a beautiful marriage."

Other than selling everything that isn't nailed down, what are their plan to turn things around?

New restaurants.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Airport travel is simply not what it used to be pre 9-11.

And, the airport board members are just plain stupid!

Anonymous said...

Above points are very good. The LV needs an airport going forward. It will probably be a more commercial/business oriented airport with limited passenger usage.

It was working well until the "business brains" of the Lehigh Valley got a hold of it.

As ABE it was wonderful, as the new LVIA it has been as overblown as the egos of the people who pushed it.

Anonymous said...

Tear down a hanger and put a hockey arena up, problem solved. Build it and they will come.

Sheez, you people need to think outside the box more often.

Anonymous said...

They need the hangers to house the ego's of the authority members. They need two just for Iannelli.

Anonymous said...

yes, yes, that's it. Pit THODE on the board. Academics have lots of practical, real-world solutions........


(Bern...I'm being ironic)

Anonymous said...

Did this board direct millions of dollars two years ago in an expensive (and maybe needless) update? Maybe before millions of tax dollars are allocated to such projects, public forums in all major communities should be required.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Tear down a hanger and put a hockey arena up, problem solved. Build it and they will come.

Sheez, you people need to think outside the box more often.

12:48 AM

This isn't a bad idea.
There are ton of sports that could utilize the huge hangers for practice. Ask soccer and ice hockey families if they wouldn't pay for training time closer to home.

Anonymous said...

Not sure how a business prof can be surprised. Isn't it his job to know this stuff.

Anonymous said...

I flew in yesterday from the Midwest I passed hundreds and hundreds of people who had their flights canceled due to the Midwest storms, thank god for the LVA and the regional flights. Our plane arrived on time and we left all those weary people behind and I got here. If I had booked into Philly I would still be in the airport WAITING instead of waking up in the Lehigh Valley after a good night sleep in my own bed.

Anonymous said...

@ 7:11:

Are you one of those stupid airport authority board members? You have to be and, you are a liar!

Anonymous said...

Its the economy stupid. Without that facility we would be coming and going by stagecoach. Which by the way would be cheaper.

Bernie O'Hare said...

6:05, Ordinarily, I'd agree, but I've seen Steve as a bethlehem planner and in other capacities. he also happens to care about this issue and use the resources. A person like Steve is just what that board needs.

Anonymous said...

@7:11 BO< it appears that the venerable know it all---Old Bertie from the Apt Board has taken a position.
He needs to do research on the notion of : RETIRE

Anonymous said...

So many things are different (even wrong) about air travel today that are beyond the control of ANY LVIA Board to fix. I am reluctant to lay this all at their feet. Obviously, they would all like to see the place booming again.

Fred Windish

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the professor has perspective on Queen City and Braden. The poor performance of LVIA are easy to measure, but I wonder what his thoughts are of having two additional air strips in close range and how he might change policy.

Anonymous said...

@8:16 am. Check the flights and schedules duschebag then call me a liar again

Anonymous said...

Thode makes some valid points.

Overall, I'd give him a C+.

Anonymous said...

I see where this is going. There are those that wanna close down Braden and Queen city for development. I hope Thode isn't one of them. Consolidation isn't the answer.

Bernie O'Hare said...

That's not his point and he's not.

Anonymous said...

Sue you can use LVIA and pay two to three times the cost per ticket.

Anonymous said...

A w questions:

1. What does it cost to park for a week at Philly
2. How long does it take to drive there and home
3. How much do you get paid and hour
4. How much cheaper is the ticket

If 1 + 2 + 3 is > 4 you are fooling yourself and should be flying out of our local airport all the time. I do this every time I fly and when I do LVIA is less expensive.

Anonymous said...

anon 10:41, are you Bert Dady and why is he still employed by anyone. Take a bus to Philly and transfer to the direct airport line. Get a ride from a friend.

Only a moron would park in nay airport parking lot for a week.

Your math is as fuzzy as your comment.

Fact is, LVIA is nothing but a foible for elites like yourself that employ poor spelling and or syntax(How much do you get paid and hour). I bet you make you overinflated ticket costs a tax write-off that I subsidize.

You are welcome!

Bernie O'Hare said...

I doubt that is daday, but it is time he step down from the board. He winters in Florida and phones in for meetings. He is 83 years old, and should never have been re-appointed.

Anonymous said...

@2:20am

A bus to philly? Do they even have that service? Where do I drive to get that?
How many hours do you expect someone to commit to going on a business trip?
So now I am supposed to get a bus or beg a ride from a friend so i can save 100 bucks on a ticket? The last time I drove a friend to the Philly International and just dropped them off at the door, it took me 3 hours to get home and 1.5 to get to the airport. Then I had to drive down and get them when the trip was over, another 4 hours, so if I make $20.00 an hour I wasted $170.00 of earning time sitting on my ass driving someone, also I spent $30.00 on gas and god know what on tolls so lets round the number and say $200.00 in time travel etc. Where is the savings? Sure for YOU there is savings, because YOU are a leech and probably didn't even thank your "friend" for the ride or compensate him in any way.

Anonymous said...

anon 9:58

A compassionate conservative. her probably writes off his time n this blog as a business expense. is that you Toni tiger?