Travel cutbacks slash service to midsize airports

As the summer travel season nears, fliers are about to feel the full brunt of cuts in air service — and vacation spots aren't the only places getting hit.

The recession and resulting falloff in business travel are taking a particular toll on second-tier business airports such as Cleveland, San Antonio and Hartford, Conn. Large airlines have reduced flights and switched to smaller planes since fall. Others have pulled out or shut down.

"What we're seeing is representative of what's happening across the country," says Ricky Smith, Cleveland's director of airports.

A year ago, Continental Airlines was expanding dramatically at Cleveland Hopkins International, a Continental hub. It was moving regional jets from Newark to Cleveland and launching new routes.

After jet fuel prices soared in the summer and business travel slowed, Continental began cutting back at Cleveland in fall. In June, Cleveland's domestic service will be down 17.5% from a year ago.

Cutbacks in service have hit elsewhere:

•San Antonio International, in Texas' top convention city, will have 14.4% less domestic service in June. Spirit Airlines and Midwest Airlines pulled out, and ExpressJet stopped flights under its own brand, says marketing director Barbara Prossen.

•Indianapolis International has seen downsizing by Northwest and US Airways. Cape Air, which was operating flights in Indiana, pulled out. Frontier Airlines, which sought bankruptcy protection last year, downsized, says spokeswoman Susan Sullivan.

•Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International has been shrinking since late 2005. But reductions this year are nearly 25%. Cincinnati has lost non-stops to several leisure spots and to small cities such as Appleton, Wis.

•Bradley International, in Hartford, has lost non-stops to Los Angeles, Houston and Denver. Frontier pulled out, says marketing director Kiran Jain. "We're optimistic this will turn around, but I don't think so this year," she says.

Service at many of the USA's top business airports — in New York City, Atlanta, Dallas, Denver and Minneapolis — is faring better. Chicago O'Hare's domestic service will be down 9.1% in June, though.

Meanwhile, leisure destinations such as Fort Lauderdale and Las Vegas will see double-digit cuts in service this summer compared with last.