Reliability is a big problem for airport carrier

Has anyone noticed the serious deterioration of the service operated by Silver Airways between Parkersburg and Cleveland? When Silver Airways began, there was a great improvement in reliability and enplanements were trending upward but that has been seriously eroded this year. I began writing this letter on Tuesday Nov. 12. The 6 a.m. flight from Parkersburg was two hours late, the 9:50 a.m. was an hour and a half late, the 1:25 p.m. was almost five hours late, the 5:25 p.m. was 2 minutes early (!) and the 9 p.m. from Cleveland was almost four hours late. And Tuesday’s pattern has been repeated many times this year. When it’s bad, it’s very, very bad. But when it’s good, it’s very good: today, Wednesday, the flights were on time or early. But the variability in reliability means fewer and fewer passengers are going to trust the operation.

The 6 a.m. from Parkersburg and the 9 p.m. from Cleveland have been particularly vulnerable with frequent cancellations. For travelers with long distance or international flights, these two flights are crucial. When traveling to China earlier this year, my 6 a.m. from Parkersburg was first five hours late and then canceled. Obviously I missed my connection and had to spend a night in Chicago, arriving in Beijing a day late with all the attendant complications. The status of my return flight at 9 p.m. out of Cleveland was uncertain until finally it left an hour late. A certain bonding happens in such situations and while we hung around gate D25 there was a general exchange of horror stories of experiences of trying to fly in and out of Parkersburg. For my next international flight I drove to Akron/Canton, a very customer-friendly airport.

I recently retired from a Marietta organization. A couple of weeks ago, a candidate for a job was coming to town and for her the existence of a local airport was important. What was her experience? A four hour delay in Cleveland; her return flight was canceled and she was driven by another would-be passenger to Cleveland Airport.

For many years I have been a booster for the Mid-Ohio Valley Airport as I see it as a real plus for the economy of the area. But after experiencing delays of seven hours, flights canceled at the last minute, etc. etc., I am tempted to give up. Silver Airways is trying to carry out a schedule which is over ambitious and with no slack in it. When the 6 a.m. is canceled “awaiting crew” we have to wonder what is going on. Soon the level of enplanements will be so low, that no company will want to bid for the route.

This airport is important for the mid-Ohio Valley and I urge the Chambers of Commerce and City Councils of both Parkersburg and Marietta to take up the issue of reliability with Silver Airways. As an alternative, can these two bodies investigate the economic feasibility of frequent ground transportation to Charleston, W.Va. and Akron/Canton, Ohio Airports?

Fraser G. MacHaffie