No Fly Zone: Cities Hit Hard by Airline Crisis

A bird's-eye view of today's airline industry shows that high fuel prices have dealt a heavy blow. The price of doing business has resulted in bankruptcies, cutbacks, even US Airways' decision this week to ditch the pretzels to get rid of extra weight that burns more jet fuel.

But as summer begins, which parts of the United States will be hard hit by the air travel industry's difficulties?

Data shows the the airline industry's problems are hitting cities large and small. According to airline consultant Michael Boyd, what's happening is "basically a chainsaw being taken to a lot of markets.

"They've done that already. It's just more and more markets are becoming unprofitable," Boyd said.

Some cities that exemplify the air travel industry's financial crunch include:

HONOLULU, HAWAII

Honolulu, Hawaii

The airline industry's struggles are apparent in large cities as well as small ones. Honolulu is a clear example of what happens when a city, and in this case an entire state, relies on carriers that suddenly go bust. This spring, Aloha Airlines shut down its operations, followed two days later by ATA, which also served the islands.

"The biggest city that's going to be hurt the most at the moment is going to be Honolulu," said Rick Seaney, president and CEO of FareCompare.com. "The prices are up dramatically since Jan. 1 of this year."

Data from Official Airline Guide-OAG found that June seats out of Honolulu are down 18 percent since last year, which is creating a ripple effect to other Hawaii destinations. Compared to last June, seats on flights out of the island of Maui's largest airport, Kahului, are down 21 percent. The number of seats out of Hilo is down 27 percent. Out of Kona, seats are down 28 percent, and out of Kamuela, seats are down 61 percent.

"Unfortunately, unfair competition has succeeded in driving us out of business, bringing to an end a 61-year-old company with a proud legacy of serving millions of travelers in the true spirit of Aloha," said Aloha Airline's release announcing the shutdown. "We realize that this comes as a devastating disappointment to our frequent fliers and our loyal business partners who have supported this company for many, many years."

TOLEDO, OHIO

Toledo, Ohio

About 60 miles from Detroit, Toledo is one of several midsize cities within 100 miles of a larger hub that still have service, but less of it. Effective May 1, Delta Airlines stopped flying from Toledo to Atlanta because of the rising cost of jet fuel. Delta also stopped flying one of its smaller flights to Cincinnati.

Data compiled by OAG revealed that the number of seats available out of Toledo in June 2008 will be down 13 percent from the number offered in June 2007.

"It is important to understand that the decision to terminate our current once daily Atlanta flight is not being caused by the lack of support from our community; however it is a direct result of soaring operating costs," said Eric J. Frankl, airports director for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority in a statement announcing the plans.

The numbers stack up similarly at other midsize airports close to larger hubs. About 90 miles west of Detroit, several carriers reduced service out of Lansing, Mich. According to OAG, seats out of Lansing are down 15 percent from June 2007 to June 2008 -- from about 32,000 to 27,000.

"What we're looking at is reduced access, not necessarily total loss of air service," Boyd said. "It's entirely because of fuel."

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