It is again that time of year!
I normally use the month of July as the basis for this annual post, but the peak in airline service this year appears to be in June.
So far, Gen. Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport is having a good year. The airport authority has posted press releases to boast of record passenger traffic for each of the first three months. Numbers are 5.5 percent higher than last year (157,431 vs. 149,181). If trends continue and there are no service losses, the 2017 tally will be another record (623,134 passengers x 1.055 = 657,406). The actual figure will end up being between 650,000 and 675,000.
Let’s analyze by airline.
June 2017 schedules show the highest service levels here since this carrier added Peoria on March 3, 2004. Flights to Destin/Fort Walton Beach (Wednesday & Sunday), Las Vegas (Sunday, Monday, Thursday and Friday), Orlando-Sanford (Wednesday & Sunday), Phoenix-Mesa (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday & Sunday), Punta Gorda/Fort Myers (Monday, Friday & Saturday) and St. Petersburg/Clearwater (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday & Sunday) total 19 weekly departures, with four each on Saturday and Sunday, two each on weekdays. All aircraft types in the Allegiant Air fleet except the Boeing 757-200 are deployed to these routes.
Nonstops to Destin/Fort Walton Beach began this past Wednesday (May 24),bringing the number of destinations to six, a level not offered here by a single airline since Ozark Air Lines’ shift to a hub-and-spoke system in the early 1980s.
Future new destinations are possible. A 2016 survey asked flyers for their preferences among three destinations: Destin/Fort Walton Beach, Los Angeles and Myrtle Beach. We now have the first. Several midwestern cities – Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Sioux Falls and Springfield (Missouri) – have service to Los Angeles. Service to Myrtle Beach seems the least likely.
The next new destination may be out of the country. Allegiant Air is believed to be behind a number of small midwestern cities’ construction of international facilities. Weekly, probably seasonal, nonstops to Cancun (Mexico), Nassau (Bahamas), Grand Cayman (Cayman Islands) and/or Montego Bay (Jamaica) are likely in the not-so-distant future.
Last summer, American Eagle offered a total of seven weekday departures to Chicago-O’Hare (four) and Dallas/Ft. Worth (three). Frequency iremains unchanged, but service to Chicago-O’Hare and Dallas/Ft. Worth has been reduced by one roundtrip to each while twice-daily Charlotte nonstops began in early November 2016. Those to American Airlines’ big Texas hub dropped in favor of larger, two-class jets. Chicago-O’Hare service has been reduced to three during the slower winter season. Service levels will probably remain at this level thanks to Charlotte service.
Word is American Eagle’s Charlotte flights are full and kicking Delta’s butt. Charlotte is, after all, an easier southeast hub than Atlanta.
Regional partners have been shuffled. Mesa Airlines replaced Envoy on the Dallas/Ft. Worth flights when larger jets were introduced here in February. Chicago-O’Hare service is now handled by SkyWest Airlines and the new Charlotte is handled by PSA Airlines. Charlotte and Chicago-O’Hare flights are operated with 50-seat Canadair CRJ200s.
American [Eagle] has the Peoria market covered with nonstops to its three largest hubs so I don’t expect new destinations. Philadelphia would be nice, but connections to the Northeast region are available through Charlotte and Chicago-O’Hare.
Service levels remain largely unchanged from last summer with three weekday roundtrips to Atlanta, two to Detroit and one to Minneapolis/St. Paul. All flights are operated with 50-seat Canadair Regional Jets. SkyWest handles the sole Minneapolis/St. Paul roundtrip while Detroit is split between that carrier and Endeavor Air. All Atlanta flights are operated by Endeavor Air.
Atlanta weekday frequencies are being reduced from three to two from July 1 through August 22. This is a curious move on Delta Connection’s part. The summer season should rate the highest frequencies and capacity. American Eagle’s new Charlotte flights are believed to be a factor. Perhaps Delta isn’t being as competitive as is should be? The airline could challenge American Airlines for dominance between Peoria and the southeast if it upgraded to larger jets (65-seat Canadair Regional Jet 700s) on all flights. It will happen eventually…if Delta doesn’t blink first.
As for others, Minneapolis/St. Paul service is offered daily except Saturday. There is a business case for maintaining this service, but whether it remains long term is unclear. Peoria has retained its Detroit service when Bloomington/Normal has lost it. Apparently, Delta is winning a lot of local travelers to and from the northeast region, and also Canada, Asia and Europe.
Service to Chicago-O’Hare adds up to four weekday roundtrips, and three on Saturdays. All flights are on 50-seat Embraer 145s with all ExpressJet Airlines and TransStates Airlines each responsible for half.
Failure of Houston nonstops has left United Airlines’ regional partner at a disadvantage in the Peoria market. Of course, recent bad publicity has done further damage to the carrier’s business. Reformation is underway. Its success will have to be reviewed in the future.
The local airport authority has made public its intent to persuade United [Express] to restore Denver service. I believe this will happen sooner rather than later, probably next year. This depends on the need to be competitive as well as local demand. Consequences of such a move may be the reduction of Chicago-O’Hare nonstops from four to three, however.
COMPETITION FROM BLOOMINGTON-NORMAL
Bloomington-Normal’s Central Illinois Regional Airport (CIRA) is no longer a threat to Peoria. There is little advantage for local travelers to make the drive. Like CIRA, parking is free at Peoria and fares are low. CIRA did post a slight increase in passengers in 2016, marking the end of a four-year decline.
But CIRA may soon face some serious competition to the east. United Express begins three daily roundtrips out of Champaign-Urbana’s Willard Airport to Chicago-O’Hare on June 8. The new service may draw potential passengers away from CIRA (like from Decatur), thus forcing reductions in frequency and/or service.
I’ve compiled scheduled airline service at Peoria Int’l Airport for June 2017. Note that Allegiant Air schedules vary quite a bit during the same month (I’ve noted dates in the right-most column). Unlike last year, I color-coded entries by airline.
– David P. Jordan