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Snap Poll: Rochester airport gets fair grades

Nearly 90 percent of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll frequently use Greater Rochester International Airport for business travel and the plurality gave the airport a fair grade for airfare costs and number of daily flights to destinations of choice.

The possible lifting of LaGuardia International Airport’s 1,500-mile perimeter rule has sparked debate about the impact it might have on flights to and from Greater Rochester International Airport. At the same time, some businesspeople already think air travel into and out of Rochester puts them at a competitive disadvantage.

More than half—53 percent—of respondents say the 1,500-mile limit on flights from LaGuardia should be lifted.

Since 1984, the perimeter rule has limited the distance traveled by flights from LaGuardia to no more than 1,500 miles. With the rule in place, airlines at LaGuardia have provided non-stop service to a number of smaller cities in the eastern United States.

Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, Rep. Louise Slaughter and others have expressed concern that lifting the perimeter rule would prompt airlines to shift their limited LaGuardia slots to more lucrative long-haul flights.

Not so, says a coalition of upstate business groups including the Rochester Business Alliance Inc. They contend lifting the perimeter rule will make LaGuardia a valuable connecting hub and say they have been assured flights between upstate and LaGuardia will not be reduced.

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Rochester had a 73.8 percent overall on-time performance in the 12 months ended in May, versus 77.7 percent nationwide. The statistics for air-carrier delay and cancellations were 8.9 percent and 2.3 percent, respectively, compared with 5.9 percent and 1.8 percent nationwide.

The airport got its best grades in the area of reliability, with the plurality—41 percent—giving it a grade of good; 6 percent said excellent and 39 percent fair. Fourteen percent said poor.

In the fourth quarter 2014, average domestic airfares for Rochester were $381.76; the national average was $392.66.

For business travel, 2 percent of Snap Poll respondents rated flying from and to Greater Rochester International Airport as excellent for fares, compared with 32 percent who said poor. The plurality—47 percent—gave it a grade of fair for costs.

Five hundred readers participated in this week’s poll, conducted Aug. 24 and 25.

Do you or key people at your business frequently use Greater Rochester International Airport for business travel?

Yes:  87%
No:  13%

For business travel, how would you rate flying from and to Greater Rochester International Airport in terms of:

Fare costs
Excellent:  2%  Good:  18%  Fair:  47%  Poor:  2%

Number of daily flights to destination of choice    
Excellent:  1%  Good:  16%  Fair:  49%  Poor:  34%

Reliability (on-time performance and cancellations)    
Excellent:  6%  Good:  41%  Fair:  39%  Poor:  14%

In your view, should the 1,500-mile limit on flights from LaGuardia International Airport be lifted?
Yes:  53%  No:  47%

For information on how the Snap Polls are conducted, click here.

COMMENTS:
The biggest issue with the Rochester airport is the limited number of direct flights. This causes much more potential for delay, lengthens trip duration and increases cost.
—Joanne Greene-Blose, The Project Solvers of America Inc.

Flying to and from Rochester is costly, inconvenient and just plain difficult. A flight to the West Coast can cost 50 to 100 percent more than flying out of Ft. Lauderdale to the West Coast. Winter weather makes flying more unreliable.
—Betty Mullin-DiProsa

The hub-and-spoke system has already made it more inconvenient for Rochester flyers. We used to have direct flights to LAX and SFO. Airlines and airports are heavily subsidized by the federal government. If a similar level of support were put to high-speed rail, trains become competitive with airlines to about 350 miles. We need to catch up with the rest of the industrialized world.
—Carlos Mercado

The average fare comparison is not a fair reflection for business travel, especially when traveling on short notice and on Mondays and Fridays. I find fares flying out of Buffalo are generally cheaper than Rochester. A good thing about Rochester airport is getting through security is a breeze.
—Patrick Ho, Rochester Optical

Yikes! While inviting critique of the airport, you missed a major benefit of our regional facility—access. Most anyone in the region can get to the airport in 30 minutes, park for $7 a day, pass through security in less than 20 minutes and wait in a clean, comfortable lounge. Compare that with PHL, LGA, JFK, ORD, DCA, IAD or any of the large airports where residents need two to three hours to navigate traffic, parking and security to get to a slightly lower-priced flight. I prefer ROC.
—Dorver Kendig, Webster

I am on a plane every week and it is difficult not living in a hub city, but extra segments are a bonus. It does seem we have an inordinate number of delays. My gut says it is because most major airlines use affiliate carriers who do not have the same caliber of aircraft and maintenance programs, and smaller cities are the first to suffer when issues hit the overall system. Being tied to the northeast corridor hubs such as Newark is also a burden. If they remove the 1,500 mile limit, flyers’ lives will become even more difficult. Dulles has reduced service already, and others are squeezing. Not a fan of regulation, but airlines need more as they have silent complicity in drawing out our times and dollars.
—Bob Gibson

The biggest issue that local leaders need to address will be the change that Southwest will discontinue direct flights to/from Midway (Chicago) as of Nov. 1. Whether you just wanted to get to downtown Chicago quickly or connect to the hundreds of Southwest flights leaving from Midway, this loss of service is huge for our town. Southwest claims they do not have sufficient passenger counts to continue this direct service, but every time I have flown Southwest—including the direct flight that arrives after midnight—the planes are full. Our community leaders need to lobby Southwest for continuing this vital direct service to Chicago.
—Michael L. Harf

I answered “no” to the first question that asks, “Do you or key people at your business frequently use Greater Rochester International Airport for business travel” because I will drive to the Buffalo airport six to 10 times per year to take better, direct flights for lower cost—every time. This total cost includes parking or a rental car to/from the Buffalo airport. I wrote an editorial in March about my only trip in 2015 in/out of Rochester and how deserted the airport was on a Saturday morning. Perhaps Allegiant Air will bring a competitive advantage to Rochester by lowering fares of the other carriers, but I am not convinced they are a viable carrier.
—Gary M. Baker, CEO, Cochran, Cochran & Yale LLC

As a weekly traveler in and out of Rochester International Airport, I’d say the pros outweigh the cons. On the downside, very few destinations are direct flights, but on the upside, you can arrive 10 minutes before boarding and still easily make your flight, provided you have the expedited TSA service.
—John Midolo Managing Partner RCM Strategies, LLC

I live here in Rochester and travel frequently (75 to 100 flights/year) for work, and I fly in and out of ROC on an almost weekly basis. ROC has flight options to most major hubs but lacks in the quantity of flights per day, which often means arriving back in ROC after 11 p.m. instead of a more reasonable hour. ROC also lacks direct flight options to some important markets such as South Florida (FLL/MIA), Texas (DFW/IAH), Montreal (YUL) and the Caribbean (SJU, PUJ, MBJ).
— Kevin Welch, DHL Global Forwarding

There are a few missing ingredients in our route map such as a direct to Dallas, and any competition on certain direct routes like Reagan or Atlanta that drive fares higher. The recent reduction in flights to Detroit and Minneapolis has made connections to Asia more complicated and driven fares higher on those routes to Tier II internationals. While most perceive Southwest as a discount family travel airline, they have hurt business travel while driving fares higher, and now are removing the direct flight to Tampa. When on the West Coast, you can use them to commute on an inexpensive basis. The sale of AirTran to Southwest was a real loss for our community as it was well run, low cost, and had good maintenance practices, unlike the new Allegiant.
—Kevin Kenny, Sutherland Global Services

8/28/15 (c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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