Cutbacks not encouraging sign for BIA

This story was published on June 06, 2008 on Page A9 in all editions of the Bangor Daily News

BANGOR – Two major airlines have announced significant cutbacks in the past two days, and while Bangor International Airport so far has survived unscathed, diminishing services nationally are not an encouraging sign for area passengers who have demanded increased flights, destinations and lower prices.

On Thursday, Continental Airlines said it would eliminate 3,000 jobs, cut 67 planes from the fleet by 2009 and reduce capacity by 11 percent this fall. On Wednesday, United Airlines announced it would discontinue its coach-only service called Ted, cut 1,600 total jobs, retire 100 total aircraft and reduce capacity by 17 percent.

United Airlines does not fly out of BIA, but Continental flies from BIA to Newark, N.J., once daily in the winter months and twice daily on weekdays during the summer. A Continental spokeswoman said Thursday that the company had yet to identify particular routes and airports affected by the cuts.

“As far as we know, there are no changes and everything is status quo,” said Risteen Masters, BIA’s marketing manager.

In light of recent cuts, regional airports have struggled to diversify routes, carriers and flight schedules, as airlines rein in operations to reduce costs. BIA officials are scheduled to attend an air service development conference in late June, but given the state of the industry, the airport representatives are left contemplating where to look for growth.

When BIA officials “have appointments with airlines, generally we’re talking about future service and route development,” Masters said.

But the options are bleak.

BIA officials had hoped to entice ATA Airlines and SkyBus Airlines Inc. to the Bangor market during the June meeting, but both ceased operations in April, Masters noted. United also has been on Bangor’s radar, she said.

Masters said the airport is trying to provide more service to the New York metropolitan area. BIA officials have appointments during the conference with Delta Air Lines Inc., US Airways, Continental and JetBlue Airways.