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Is CHO in trouble?

by Stephanie Garcia
published 5:30pm Wednesday Jun 25, 2008
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The Business Travel Coalition, an advocacy organization that advances the interests of business travelers, seems to think so.

“Charlottesville’s air service could become an unwitting victim of high fuel prices, as multiple U.S. airlines are likely to default and fail in the coming months while other airlines retrench,” reads a release from the organization today.

“The crisis does not bode well for the economies of communities at risk across the U. S., including Charlottesville.”

Not surprisingly, reporters in big cities and small towns everywhere have cranked out stories based on the BTC release, which the organization appears to have personalized for each recipient.

On Monday, the BTC released a report on the supposed crisis called “Beyond the Airlines’ $2 Can of Coke: Catastrophic Impact on the U.S. Economy from Oil- price Trauma in the Airline Industry,” which argues that the collapse of major U.S. airlines would “paralyze the country and our American way of life.”

“Liquidations at major airlines would have catastrophic effects on the economy, drastically reduce service in cities large and small, and impact people in Charlottesville,” says BTC chairman Kevin Mitchell in the release. “The fuel crisis is having an impact beyond the gas pump and is now likely to cause irreparable harm to businesses large and small through a significant reduction in air service.”

All that might seem alarmist if it weren’t for the latest CHO blog post from Director of Air Service and Marketing, Jason Burch, who writes, “It’s no secret that this will be a challenging summer for everyone involved in air transportation… the air service industry has become extremely volatile… CHO is no exception to the negative effects of the current fuel crisis.”

Indeed, as we have previously reported, CHO faced the same problem last summer, not to mention getting some stiff competition from revamped Richmond International Airport.

“Over the next several months we will be visiting with the airlines that already serve Charlottesville and the surrounding communities, as well as those that may be interested in future air service,” writes Burch. “The plan is simple: sell ourselves.”

Earlier today, an intern in our office called CHO customer service to get updates on flight schedules for the Hook’s upcoming Annual Manual, but was told she would have to wait until Friday, when the “airport would release a statement” regarding the airlines serving it.

A statement? We called for the flight schedule. “We’ve had a lot of calls from reporters about our flight schedule lately,” the airport representative said.

The Hook asked to speak with airport higher-ups, but was told they would not be available until Monday.

  • Music Lover June 25th, 2008 | 6:20 pm

    No surprises there. I stopped using CHO a few years ago. It’s just too freaking expensive to fly out of there, then have to sit in Atlanta, Cincinnati, Philly, or wherever for an hour or two to get a connecting flight. Much easier and cheaper (and in many cases actually FASTER if you can get a direct flight) to drive to Richmond or Dulles and fly from there. As fuel prices drive even higher fares, the economics of departing from elsewhere will probably become even more attractive.

    Oh well. The Air Force can still use the runway for touch-and-go landings.

  • colfer June 25th, 2008 | 8:53 pm

    Business Travel Coalition, I tried to find some trash on them but they look pretty good to me. Even this last episode is really just them ranking 100 airports and sending out press releases. Nothing wrong with that. BUT their site http://www.savemyairport.com is pure astroturf, with blog articles linking back to news articles prompted by their own press releases. And a tiny “BTC” logo at the bottom. Garbage.

  • What are the Chances the Charlottesville Airport would Close? | Real Central VA June 25th, 2008 | 10:25 pm

    [...] a press release can travel: C-Ville - (why not trackbacks/pingbacks? But thank you for the link!) The HooK [...]

  • Outskirts Guy June 26th, 2008 | 12:00 am

    If this commonwealth would frickin invest one dime in rail systems we would have a nice light rail system up to dc so we wouldn’t have to spend time trying to find CHO (at least it isn’t on a “nearly” dirt road anymore).

    This village should work on accepting reality and do everything it can to become a great little suburb of DC.

    NGIC rocks. Get the DC rail running four times/day.

  • Cletus June 26th, 2008 | 7:47 am

    Is this some kind of surprise to everyone? CHO is a very nice airport. But why should I pay an extra 150-200$ for a 1 way ticket out of CHO when I can leave from Richmond or DC for FAR less?
    There’s no public transportation to and from CHO (except by taxi which is expensive). You can’t really blame CTS because there isn’t sufficient traffic in and out of CHO to justify bus service there. I would love not to have to go to RIC or AID/DCA. But the difference in price makes it worth the inconvenience.

  • bandaid June 26th, 2008 | 7:52 am

    I made a decision the last time I flew - about 3 years ago - that I was all done flying. Life is too short to put up with the cost, the inconvenience, the attitudes of Airline personnel, lost luggage, flight cancellations, being abandoned in the middle of nowhere and having to give up and rent a car to get to my destinaton over 24 hours late…you get the picture.

    Traveling by train is a lot less hassle and a lot more fun.

  • beamin myeye June 26th, 2008 | 9:04 am

    “argues that the collapse of major U.S. airlines would “paralyze the country and our American way of life.”

    airlines would not be an intrinsic part of the American way of life if our government (we) had not been subsidizing their existence with billions in public money going to airport construction, subsidies for the fuel industry and direct subsidies to the airlines themselves. similar to any pusher, it starts out cheap until we build our lives around it then suddenly reality makes an entrance. Difference is, people who have never been on a plane have been paying for it all along.

  • cindy_hoo June 26th, 2008 | 9:59 am

    I personally thought the only person using CHO was Howie Long?

  • Jim June 26th, 2008 | 10:55 am

    When I went to Hawaii in 2004 it cost $16 more to fly from here than it did DC, so I jumped all over it. I guess I won’t see that kind of deal happen again.

  • Lys June 26th, 2008 | 11:06 am

    I love CHO! I was a frequent flyer with my old job and I can’t imagine having survived all that business travel if I’d had to drive to Richmond or DC. Say it isn’t so!

  • flier June 26th, 2008 | 2:42 pm

    I agree with Lys. It is fine to drive to ric or iad for when you occasionally go some where for fun, but it is not fun to drive 2 hours home after flying back from to iad from a business trip a couple of times a month.

  • Gail June 26th, 2008 | 4:07 pm

    Won’t the two traffic circles in little Earlysville look even sillier if the airport dies?

  • ThatGrrl June 26th, 2008 | 4:46 pm

    People may laugh, but I love using CHO for international travel. Sure, it costs more. Yes, you’re likely adding a leg to your flight. But when you return home barely able to keep your eyes open, a 10 mile drive home sure beats a 2 hour one from DC. Figure in gas costs to DC, higher parking costs and the risk of being late for your flight due to unforeseen accidents on the highway and I’m fine with paying the difference.

  • Mark Consumer June 27th, 2008 | 12:28 pm

    Yes local transportation is very expensive!
    Did you know that a taxi trip from CHO to 1 mile beyond the Greene county border and back to CHO cost $50 in 2002 . Why? because in addition to the $20 roubd trip, $15 was added for each crossing of the Albemarle-Greene border! Is that price gouging or what? My wife forgot her photo ID and had to go back home to get it. We had been dropped off at CHO by relatives and could not reach them in time to get a ride to home and back to CHO before the flight to Denver. The only alternative was the $50 round trip. Who knows what that taxi ride would cost today.

  • Mark Consumer June 27th, 2008 | 12:32 pm

    Just booked a round trip from CHOOrlando $331 + $15 flight cancellation/interruption ins.

  • Love CHO June 27th, 2008 | 1:15 pm

    I love CHO, and really hope it doesn’t close. I rarely pay more to fly out of CHO than I would at Richmond or Washington DC, but even if I had to pay more, the convenience is worth it. Check in is so simple. And when you return from your trip it is so nice to come to a small airport close to home.

    The few times I have used Dulles have just not been worth the trouble.

  • Joe June 27th, 2008 | 3:01 pm

    I paid almost $20 for a taxi from Forest Lakes to the Airport. Next time I will walk

  • Music Lover June 28th, 2008 | 10:16 am

    In rare cases it might be cost-effective to fly out of CHO. But in the vast majority of trips that simply isn’t the case.

    Flying to Chicago, departing Friday, August 1, returning Monday, August 4:

    CHO best price: $318, flight time 5 hours 12 minutes (1 stop)
    *total travel time: 5 hours 30 minutes (allowing for 18 minutes to get to CHO)

    RIC best price: $256, flight time 4 hours 27 minutes (1 stop)
    *total travel time: 6 hours (allowing 90 minutes to get to RIC)

    RIC best price: $298, flight time 2 hours 5 minutes (non stop)
    *total travel time: 3 hours 35 minutes

    IAD best price: $266, flight time 1 hour 45 minutes (non stop)
    *total travel time: 3 hours 30 minutes (allowing 75 minutes to get to IAD)

    CHO is kind of competitive in this scenario once you factor in drive time.

    Now let’s look at a cross-country flight. Destination: Los Angeles, same dates.

    CHO best price: $448, flight time 14 hours 57 minutes (2 stops) - the return is only just over 13 hours

    CHO best price: $660, flight time 7 hours 2 minutes (1 stop)

    RIC best price: $367, flight time 7 hours 26 minutes (1 stop)

    IAD best price: $377, flight time 7 hours 15 minutes (1 stop)

    IAD best price (to Long Beach, not LAX): $419, flight time 5 hours 12 minutes

    CHO is competitive in this scenario only if you’re willing to travel 15 hours to get to LA and are willing to pay $80 more than the lowest fare. And while it IS nice to land a few miles froom home, does flying 13 hours and driving 15 minutes really beat flying 5 hours and driving for less than 2?

    If the business is paying, that’s one thing. But for pleasure travel it’s always been very hard for us to choose CHO.

    I travel a fair amount and from my experiences these scenarios are typical.

  • Love CHO June 30th, 2008 | 12:45 pm

    It looks like the rates have improved since you checked them, because I am seeing several options for only $378 from CHO to Los Angeles–with most of them only taking 7-8 hours and one stop.

  • HLR July 9th, 2008 | 10:07 am

    So, CHO is expecting a difficult summer. It might be because some of their traffic is tired of the ripoff parking costs and the antics of CHO’s Administration. Check out the article in 7/16/08 Daily News Record, http://www.dnronline.com, and you’ll see that some folks are driving across the mountain and flying out of Shenandoah Valley Airport. While CHO is worried about losing flights, SHD has added flights. It’s a hassle free airport, everyone’s friendly, and the parking is FREE. Try it!

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