Port Columbus to get another low-fare airline

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Another low-fare airline is set to start serving Port Columbus later this year. AirTran will fill some of the hole left by the defunct Skybus. An industry expert says, though, AirTran’s arrival does not mean more low-cost carriers are prepared to land in Columbus.

The low-cost carrier AirTran will take off in November from Port Columbus, offering non-stop flights Atlanta, Orlando and Fort Myers.

AirTran spokesperson Judy Graham-Weaver said the airline had its eye on Columbus for some time. She said Skybus’s fallout did play a role in AirTran making the decision to root in Columbus.

“When another airline is in a market and already serving it, and in this case that airline went out of business so it left a void there that we feel very confident that we can come in and fill with our low fares because we’re already doing that in two other cities in Ohio,” Graham-Weaver said.

Right now AirTran services airports in Dayton and Akron/Canton.

But an airline consultant said Columbus should not expect other airlines to move into Port Columbus.

“Run for cover when someone says this will get other low-cost carriers in here,” Mike Boyd said. He is president of the Boyd Group in Colorado.

“There aren’t a lot of low-fare carriers out there. You can run down the list. You already have Southwest, you have AirTran, those are the two biggest ones. But the other ones like JetBlue, been there, done that, not coming back. Or Frontier, they’re just not in an expansion mode right now; they’re contracting. There’s argument that if we get AirTran, they’ll work, we’ll get other low-fare carriers. To where? There just aren’t any real options out there,” Boyd said.

Boyd said the slow economy is forcing some carriers to cut routes, not expand them. And Graham-Weaver said that is partly the case for AirTran.

“We’ll be dropping some routes; we’ve dropped some other routes this year already. So we’re more right sizing the markets and looking at where are the best opportunities are. So we see that as a great opportunity in Columbus, and that’s the reason for now,” she said.

AirTran’s one-way introductory fares start at $95.