Low-cost carriers clip Bangor airport


BANGOR (AP) – The number of passengers using Bangor International Airport is dropping this year, and airport officials blame the trend on low-cost carriers that are now flying from Portland International Jetport.

Passenger traffic was down 4.7 percent in the first five months of the year, and there was a 16.2 percent drop in May. Delta Air Lines, the airport’s largest carrier, experienced a 33 percent decline in passengers in May.

“Obviously we are disappointed with the passenger numbers,” said BIA Director Rebecca Hupp. “Unfortunately, we don’t set the schedule or the pricing.”

Bangor’s airport has always been at a slight disadvantage because air fares are often lower at busier airports to the south. In particular, Manchester-Boston Regional Airport benefited from low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines.

But fares have plunged in Portland, as well, since low-cost carriers JetBlue and AirTran Airways launched service. The JetBlue service began in May 2006, and AirTran launched its first flights from Portland last month.

“Portland right now is experiencing tremendous success and is really an anomaly in New England,” said J. Brian O’Neill, assistant airport director at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, which competes with Portland and Bangor.

Most airports struggled in 2006 as many airlines filed for bankruptcy protection and undertook corporate restructuring, O’Neill said.

“Airlines make decisions that dramatically impact the airports’ ability to provide services and flights that our passengers need,” he said.

In Bangor, Delta pulled its 50-seat passenger jets from the Bangor-Boston route in April and replaced them with 19-seat turboprop aircraft, which were considered the best match for the Bangor market, said Delta spokeswoman Betsy Talton. That switch could have been a factor in May’s 33-percent passenger decline, she said.

In order to address those disappointing numbers, the airport has been working with focus groups to look at advertising strategies and how to promote the airport in the region by working with chambers of commerce, visitor bureaus and tourism boards, Hupp said.

While trying to improve air service, BIA wants to “encourage existing carriers to add capacity and try to attract a new carrier on a new route,” Hupp said.

Information from: Bangor Daily News, http://www.bangornews.com

AP-ES-07-11-07 1045EDT