Fares drop, flights decrease, but routes to Florida on the rise

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Holiday travelers, take note: The number of daily flights from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport this November will be roughly half of what it was in 2019, a dramatic drop due to declining demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The number of flights taking off from Cleveland Hopkins has dropped dramatically, due to declining demand. The silver lining: holiday airfare should be the lowest in years.  Gus Chan, The Plain Dealer

© Gus Chan/The Plain Dealer/cleveland.com/TNS
The number of flights taking off from Cleveland Hopkins has dropped dramatically, due to declining demand. The silver lining: holiday airfare should be the lowest in years. Gus Chan, The Plain Dealer

There is this silver lining, however: Holiday airfare in Cleveland is expected to drop dramatically in 2020 – to an average of $143 round trip for Thanksgiving and $173 for Christmas, according to travel data firm Hopper.

Driven by low demand combined with fierce competition, average fares for Thanksgiving travel from Cleveland are predicted to be 45% below last year’s prices; Christmas fares will be 48% less.

“Airlines are lowering prices to incentivize travelers to get back in the sky,” said Liana Corwin, consumer travel expert with Hopper. Fares also are unusually stable for holiday travel, she said, unlikely to swing widely between now and Thanksgiving and Christmas.

But, of course, low fares don’t matter much if you can’t get to where you want to go.

In the face of dramatically lowered demand, carriers are cutting back significantly on supply, in Cleveland and elsewhere, eliminating both routes and frequency.

Related: Holiday airfare from Cleveland Hopkins drops 45% for 2020; here’s how to get the lowest rate

Travelers can choose from 29 nonstop destinations available from Cleveland Hopkins in November, down from 42 in November 2019.

Among the destinations that are no longer available via nonstop flights: San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Austin, Charleston, Milwaukee and New Orleans.

Airport officials say they expect many of the missing destinations will return eventually, as demand continues to improve.

Cleveland Hopkins welcomed 315,149 passengers in August, the most recent month for which numbers are available, down 66% from the same month a year ago. Year to date, passengers are down 59%, according to airport figures.

Nationwide, passenger traffic was down 70% in August, according to preliminary data from the federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

There is some reason for optimism, however: The Transportation Security Administration announced this week that it screened 1 million passengers on a single day for the first time since mid-March. Even so, those 1,031,505 passengers screened Sunday represent a drop of 60% from a year ago.

Business travel has been impacted the most by the pandemic, as indicated by the changing mix of nonstop flights available from Cleveland.

At the moment, Cleveland has no nonstop flights to either Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., or John F. Kennedy International in New York City. And next month, United is dropping its nonstop flight to San Francisco.

Yet United is adding new service and additional frequencies to popular leisure destinations, including Cancun, Mexico, and Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Tampa and Orlando airports in Florida.

JetBlue, too, is trying to cash in on the leisure trend, recently launching new service from Cleveland to Fort Myers.

Here’s a look at where Cleveland’s carriers plan to fly in November. Keep in mind: Some of the flights are offered weekends only, in a direct appeal to leisure travelers. Also: Airlines can (and will) make adjustments to their schedules, even at the last minute, based on demand and other factors.

We’ve also included some of the more notable omissions from the schedule, by carrier.

Allegiant Air

Flying to: Punta Gorda, Savannah, Sarasota

Not flying to: St. Pete-Clearwater

American Airlines

Flying to: Charlotte, Detroit, Miami, Chicago, Philadelphia, Phoenix

Not flying to: Washington Reagan, New York John F. Kennedy, New York LaGuardia

Delta Air Lines

Flying to: Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, New York LaGuardia, Minneapolis

Not flying to: Hartford, New York John F. Kennedy, Raleigh-Durham, Salt Lake City

Frontier Airlines

Flying to: Denver, Las Vegas, Orlando, Phoenix, Fort Myers, Sarasota, Tampa

Not flying to: Austin, Charleston, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, West Palm Beach

JetBlue Airways

Flying to: Boston, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers

Southwest Airlines

Flying to: Atlanta, Nashville, Baltimore, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Las Vegas, Orlando, Chicago, Phoenix, St. Louis

Not flying to: Milwaukee

Spirit Airlines

Flying to: Atlanta, Cancun, Dallas, Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Orlando, Myrtle Beach, Fort Myers, Tampa

Not flying to: Boston, New Orleans

United Airlines

Flying to: Denver, Newark, Fort Lauderdale, Washington Dulles, Houston, Orlando, Chicago, Fort Myers, Tampa

Not flying to: San Francisco, Los Angeles

Cleveland Hopkins: By the numbers

Number of flights in November 2019: 4,018

Number of flights in November 2020 (expected): 2,099

Number of seats, November 2019: 479,974

Number of seats, November 2020 (expected): 281,089

Number of nonstop destinations, November 2019: 42

Number of nonstop destinations, November 2020: 29

Read more

Risk of coronavirus spread on airplane flights is low, new Department of Defense study suggests

Three terminal expansion options considered for Cleveland Hopkins, part of airport master-plan process


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