It wasn’t that long ago that Cincinnati-area residents traveling by air would drive to such nearby cities as Dayton or Lexington to catch their flights. The reason: They were avoiding the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG), which regularly sat atop U.S. Department of Transportation rankings of the most-expensive average airfares in the country. As recently as 2015, the local airport’s one-time dominance by Delta translated into lots of flight choices by that Atlanta-based carriers for passengers, but at a high cost.
These days, though, CVG has the lowest airfares in the region, and among the least expensive nationally. More specifically, in the latest transportation department rankings (from most expensive to least among the top 100 U.S. domestic airports for the third quarter of 2018) the Hebron, Ky., complex placed at No. 83, with an average fare of $310.
Indeed, during the past four years, overall airfares at CVG have dropped 45 percent. While Delta has scaled back its operations at CVG over that period, airport officials credit the arrival of low-fare carrier Southwest Airlines and ultra-low-cost carriers Allegiant Air and Frontier Airlines as drivers for CVG’s lower overall fares and growing passenger counts.
The price drop at CVG has also resulted in its fares now being cheaper than other regional airports that local fliers used to drive to at the start of their journeys. According to the transportation department’s latest rankings, all other major airports in the region are costlier than CVG:
- Indianapolis (IND) ranked No. 61 – average fare $340
- Columbus (CMH) ranked No. 46 – average fare $356
- Louisville (SDF) ranked No. 26 – average fare $384
- Lexington (LEX) ranked No. 9 – average fare $421
- Dayton (DAY) ranked No. 8 – average fare $421
Another barometer of CVG’s growth is its soaring local passenger count. In the past four years, the airport’s passenger traffic has increased 56 percent. And just last month, the airport set an all-time monthly record for local passengers, with a total of 278,440, a 5.3 percent increase from a year earlier and the 10th month in a row that it has achieved a new record in that statistic.
“The positive growth we’re experiencing at CVG is because the community continues to embrace what’s next with additional air-service options and the lowest airfares in the region,” said CVG CEO Candace McGraw.
Also expanding are the airport’s cargo operations, which moved 1.2 million tons of goods last year. In addition to being home to DHL’s North American hub, online mega-retailer Amazon is working on a $1.5 billion cargo hub adjacent to CVG that will support a fleet of 100-plus Prime Air planes when it opens in late 2021.