February 01, 2003
Meetings & Conventions: Newsline newsline.gif (8042 bytes)   Cities Brace for United Cuts
Eugene Airport: Half of all its passengers fly United. With bankrupt United Airlines slashing its schedule by 6 percent this spring, concern is rising in cities where United provides the bulk of the airlift.

Low-profit routes should beware, according to Bill Oliver, aviation industry consultant at the Evergreen, Colo.-based airline consulting firm The Boyd Group. Oliver, who expects decreased capacity rather than eliminated routes, said United’s regional partners Air Wisconsin, Atlantic Coast Airlines and SkyWest all are being asked to renegotiate their contracts.

In Eugene, Ore., the meetings and conventions industry already is feeling the crunch. Last month, Eugene lost 130 seats per day when United switched air service to San Francisco from mainline to regional jets.

“It’s disheartening,” said Kari Westlund, president and CEO of the Eugene Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The availability of air service is key for a planner’s site selection.”

Bryan Wickman, executive director of the Eugene-based Association for Direct Instruction, said poor air service was partly to blame for the 25 percent drop in attendance at ADI’s 2002 national conference, held in the city.

For their part, Eugene airport officials said they’ve maintained contact with United and hope for additional service. But the CVB’s vice president of convention marketing, Pat Philips, is uneasy. “What will United do now?” she asked. “We know they are going to be further cutting back service, and we hope to God it’s not here.”


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