Radio Guest List — Hyatt Regency Cincinnati — October 17, 2020
This week, Eye on Travel comes to you from the Hyatt Regency Cincinnati and the site of the annual Boyd Group International Aviation Forecast Summit. Ted Christie, CEO of Spirit Airlines, talks with Peter about how the low-cost, low-fare airline will survive and succeed in the era of COVID-19. Chief Economist at Airlines for America, John Heimlich, weighs in on the real numbers, not to mention the 86% drop in business travel. And Mike Boyd discusses the real fear factors and why people are still not flying — and what needs to happen in order to get travelers in the air again. Captain John Cox, President and CEO of Safety Operating Systems LLC, talks about the revolutionary shift of the airline industry this year with changes in the availability of equipment and locations as the industry recovers — including an update on the Boeing 737 Max. We’ll also take a look at the impact on airports around the U.S., starting with Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky (CVG). And there’s some good news: Business Courier’s Andy Brownfield talks about the renaissance that Cincinnati has gone through over the last 10 years and the food and cultural explosion in the city. There’s all this and more on this week’s broadcast of Eye on Travel.
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Mike Boyd, Aviation Consultant and President of Boyd Group International, believes that the return of successful domestic travel begins with destinations opening both safely from the virus and no quarantine restrictions. He discusses that people are not flying now mostly because of misinformation about airplane safety and about the pandemic as well as uncertainty about their destinations after deboarding the plane. He talks about how 31% of all U.S. enplanements are generated by international travel, which is what is currently shut down. Mike discusses the drop in transpacific travel from 8.2 million down to 1.5 million. He thinks that all airlines will exist a year from now, but without relief, it will be a much smaller industry with fewer places to go and fewer airplanes in function.
Candace McGraw, CEO of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG), discusses how CVG will finish 2020 with about 30% of the business that it had in 2019. She talks about CVG having a $6.8 billion annual economic impact on the region with 14,500 employees on the campus and 47,000 jobs in the community. The negative impacts do not only come from airplanes and passengers, but also from retail, parking, landing fees and more. She talks about the “Southwest factor,” and how adding carriers created competition to keep fares lower at CVG within the last two years. She mentions that pre-pandemic, 90-93% of passenger trips either began or ended at CVG, which would mean that travelers leave the airport and go to restaurants and hotels across the river in Cincinnati.
Captain John Cox, President and Chief Executive Officer of Safety Operating Systems LLC, talks about the revolutionary shift of the airline industry this year with changes in the availability of equipment and locations as the industry recovers. He mentions the success and reliability of twin-engine airplanes that can fly anywhere over the world. He believes that corporate travel will return once large corporations lift their own travel restrictions and that leisure traffic has come back faster because each individual can make his or her own decisions. He discusses airline schedules and how airlines like Delta are now publishing schedules 30 days in advance instead of six to eight months in advance with adjustments still being made last minute. He says that fully booked planes and expensive fares are not such a big problem for travelers now.
Ted Christie, President and CEO at Spirit Airlines Inc, gives his optimistic perspective on the future of Spirit Airlines, which is the lowest cost airline in the United States. Ted explains that Spirit’s core traffic comes from leisure travel, so they are one of the first airlines to see recovery as leisure travel tends to be the most resilient and comes back more quickly in times of crisis. He discusses that traveling on an airplane is safe because of the air quality and the recirculation of air. He also discusses how allowing travelers to be flexible will reestablish confidence in flying. Ted further talks about how Spirit has banned passengers for not wearing masks and that the company stands behind its employees in upholding the mask requirements. He speaks about Spirit’s refund policy and how it has extended the windows to allow people more time to use vouchers. He believes that the passenger traffic numbers for leisure travel in 2021 will look like 2019 as more people visit friends and relatives.
Andy Brownfield, Reporter for the Cincinnati Business Courier, talks about the restaurant scene in the city. He says that over the last 10 years, the whole region has undergone a renaissance with the redevelopment of neighborhoods like Over-the-Rhine and near the Ohio River. He mentions that people can find Venezuelan Arepas, old-fashioned barbeque, and Hawaiian-style poke bowls all on the same street. He also gives a Cincinnati perspective to the historical story of President William Howard Taft getting stuck in a bathtub. He then discusses a big boom in whiskey and bourbon and gives a recommendation for a great Chinese food restaurant.
Daniel Shurz, Senior Vice President of Commercial for Frontier Airlines, talks about how it is not surprising that leisure travel will recover more quickly than business travel. He says that he is seeing travelers book trips slightly further out now, but people are still waiting until the last minute because they are unsure of how their destination’s openings will change. Frontier went into the pandemic with its services being 95% domestic, and Daniel says that has been advantageous because there are not many travel restrictions within the United States. He talks about a spike in travel to destinations with mountains and other outdoor open spaces because people want to be comfortable while also fulfilling a pent-up desire to travel. He also discusses the benefits of secondary airports.
John Heimlich, Vice President and Chief Economist at Airlines for America (A4A), gives his perspective on how the medical timeline influences the recovery of the airline industry. With a medical solution such as testing, therapeutics or a vaccine, the economic side of the industry can begin to recover. He believes there is a five-year proposition and 2021 will be a big transition year for the industry. He discusses that corporate travel is down 86% and has hardly budged since March. Corporate travelers travel the most frequently and pay the most in ancillary services. He believes that travel will recover when people feel entirely safe in their trips, which also includes feeling safe in taxis, Ubers, restaurants and hotels.
John Fox, Editor-in-Chief of Cincinnati Magazine, gives insight to Cincinnati being either the southernmost northern city or the northernmost southern city. He provides history about river traffic and river boats on the Ohio River. John offers his perspective on whether or not Cincinnati should be considered part of the Rust Belt and discusses Procter and Gamble as the biggest industry in the city. He discusses Union Terminal and its function as a museum center, the Cincinnati zoo and German immigration. He then talks about Cincinnati’s chili parlors with sweet Greek-style chili as well as German food and beer being popular not only throughout the city but also within the sports stadiums.
Ray Dabbelt, Deputy Fire Chief of Cincinnati Airport, shares how his department’s most frequent calls are for EMS runs. He explains that the department is hooked into tower and radio frequencies and reports to any gear or plane malfunction. Ray gives insight on the CVG fire department’s tradition of saluting a pilot’s final crossing of the waterway on his or her last flight before retirement as well as how military service members are honored. He also discusses how his department must maintain a three-minute response time, and so they are always ready to go — 24/7.