by Bruce Myint | November 01, 2004
Delta airplaneThe recent decision by Delta Air Lines to shed its Dallas/Fort Worth hub has sparked concerns among local travel organizers, fearful that decreased service will limit flight options and result in higher airfares.
    By dropping 235 of its 256 daily flights by Jan. 31, 2005, Atlanta-based Delta said it hopes to save $5 billion over the next two years.
    “Losing a carrier like that reduces capacity to many destinations, and with large group movements, that can be a real problem,” said Wayne Wallgren, principal of Dallas-based WorldWide Incentives Inc.
    Carol Devine, president of the National Business Travel Association, said Dallas/Fort Worth area planners are considering the use of alternate airports, directing employees to fly with low-cost carriers and loosening direct-service requirements. She added that industry colleagues share concerns about future hub closings, as airlines nationwide continue to grapple with bankruptcy and the looming specter of liquidation.
    Airport officials in September said they were in talks with a number of carriers on expanding or initiating service to DFW, including Southwest Airlines, which has avoided service to DFW for 30 years.
    Even if Dallas succeeds in adding flights from competing airlines, it could take a while before local planners see air service fully restored. In Columbus, Ohio, where America West dropped its hub in February 2003, the number of daily flights has only recently returned to original levels.
Before the closing, Port Columbus International Airport received 188 flights a day. A year later, activity remained down by nearly 10 percent. By this September, the airport had recovered to 178 flights a day, thanks to additional service from American, Southwest and US Airways, according to an airport spokesperson.
    “Although it took some time, we’re doing okay now,” said Joe Marinelli, vice president of sales for the Greater Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It has not hurt us as dramatically as we originally thought it would.”
    Marinelli’s advice to meeting planners facing a local hub closing is simple: “Be patient. While one airline might drop its hub, the other airlines are going to find ways to pick up the slack.”