Advertisement

Commuter flights aren't selling well

January 10, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - The number of paid ticket-holders using a state-subsidized airline to fly to or from Hagerstown to Baltimore-Washington International Airport averaged about 2.4 people per flight on the 19-seat plane, according to information released Wednesday by Hagerstown Regional Airport.

Airport Manager Carolyn Motz said Thursday she is satisfied with the passenger statistics because the service is only one year old and encountered problems along the way.

Even at its peak, in April, the airline carried an average of fewer than four passengers per flight, according to statistics.

Advertisement

The Maryland Aviation Administration has recommended against continuing the state subsidy for Boston-Maine Airways past June 30. The thrice-daily flights from Cumberland to Hagerstown to BWI and back have not drawn enough customers to be independently profitable, according to a report the agency sent to legislative leaders and Gov. Parris Glendening.

About 2,200 people paid for tickets to get on or off the airline in Hagerstown, Motz said.

The cost of a round-trip ticket between Hagerstown and BWI is currently $123, including fees and taxes, Motz said.

The state originally agreed to subsidize the service by $5 million over three years but instead is spending $4.25 million in fewer than two years.

Motz has called on elected officials to help her get the airline a state subsidy of $750,000 for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.

Washington County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook has said county officials will support keeping the subsidized service going but he expects it to be a difficult fight because of the tight state budget, poor economy and the absence, due to an election loss, this legislative session of state House Speaker Casper Taylor of Cumberland, Md., who championed the program.

Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, chairman of the local delegation to the Maryland General Assembly, said Thursday he supports Motz's push and expects the delegation to take a vote to support the subsidy for another year.

A subsidy is necessary to help the program get off the ground, McKee said.

McKee said he was not surprised the passenger numbers were low because the airline needed to do some "fine-tuning."

The airport delayed running a marketing campaign until November to give the airline time to work out snags, Greg Larsen, the airport's marketing director, has said. Among other things, the airline's schedule needed to be adjusted to meet business travelers' needs, he has said.

Larsen and Motz said one reason ridership was not higher was that the airline's flights were not listed in computer reservation system programs that travel agents use to book flights.

The computer problem recently was resolved, Motz said.

The number of paid ticket-holders increased from 95 in January 2002 to 152 in February of that year, according to the information Motz released.

The airline's busiest months were February through June, then ridership dropped in July.

Motz attributed that drop in part to potential passengers' nervousness as the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks approached.

As the number of passengers dropped, the airline stopped providing connecting flights at BWI to Orlando, Fla., which had been a popular destination for users of the Hagerstown airport, Motz said. That change added to further drops in ridership, she said.

Ridership increased from 84 in November to 115 in December. Motz said the December numbers probably would have been higher had not seven flights been canceled due to poor weather.




  • Paid ticket-holder statistics for Hagerstown Regional Airport for the state-subsidized airline flying from Cumberland to Hagerstown to Baltimore-Washington International airports or back in 2002:

  • A total of 2,207 people paid to fly on the 906 flights made on the 19-seat planes, or an average of about 2.4 people per flight.

  • In January, 95 people flew from Hagerstown to BWI and 47 flew back on a total of 81 flights.

  • In February, 152 people flew from Hagerstown to BWI and 73 flew back on a total of 68 flights.

  • In March, 165 people flew from Hagerstown to BWI and 101 flew back on a total of 78 flights.

  • In April, 159 people flew from Hagerstown to BWI and 114 flew back on a total of 73 flights.

  • In May, 113 people flew from Hagerstown to BWI and 96 flew back on a total of 68 flights.

  • In June, 154 people flew from Hagerstown to BWI and 97 flew back on a total of 72 flights.

  • In July, 98 people flew from Hagerstown to BWI and 97 flew back on a total of 78 flights.

  • In August, 105 people flew from Hagerstown to BWI and 85 flew back on a total of 79 flights.

  • In September, 75 people flew from Hagerstown to BWI and 65 flew back on a total of 77 flights.

  • In October, 65 people flew from Hagerstown to BWI and 52 flew back on a total of 82 flights.

  • In November, 53 people flew from Hagerstown to BWI and 31 flew back on a total of 78 flights.

  • In December, 72 people flew from Hagerstown to BWI and 43 flew back on a total of 72 flights.


Source: Hagerstown Regional Airport

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|