by Michael Lowrey
US Airways will soon add another domestic destination from CLT: Burlington, Vermont (BTV). A single daily flight begins on August 18th (the return from BTV starts the next day) on a 76-seat Embrear E175 large regional jet. This will give Charlotte nonstop flights to all six New England states — yes, we already have daily flights to Manchester, NH and Portland, ME.
Quick analysis: Does this come as a surprise? Yes and no. No, in the sense that Burlington has long been the largest unserved market from Charlotte in US Airways’ traditional East Coast route network. And really, nothing even comes close to it in size — 25 to 40 people a day currently fly each way between the two cities, and they all have to connect. The problems has been that average fares between CLT and BTV are pretty low (3Q1014 average one-way fare of $197.33), it’s bit of a haul — 761 miles to be exact — to Charlotte from Burlington, and that existing service to both Washington Reagan National and Philadelphia offer lots of connecting options for people going to/from Burlington.
So why now? Good question, and there’s no obvious answer. The US Airways/American Airlines merger has nothing to do with it, as American doesn’t fly to BTV. US Airways has flown from Charlotte to Burlington before though, in the summer of 2008 on Saturdays only on a 50-seat regional jet.
CLT-BTV average fares are up recently, which could be a factor in starting a nonstop now. While $197.33 for a one-way average on a route of that length isn’t great, it is up significantly from 3Q2013, when the average fare was only $174.01. And Burlington officials certainly have expressed an interest in flights to Charlotte.
Is there a downside here? Yes, maybe. It’s less than a hundred miles from Burlington to Montreal (YUL). US Airways hasn’t been doing so hot in Canada lately; Charlotte – Ottawa flights ends in June and Charlotte – Montreal service isn’t what it once was. To the degree that the new Burlington flight attracts some travelers that previously may have flown Montreal – Charlotte instead, it does increase the odds that the daily CLT-YUL service may end at some point in the future.
Largest unserved markets: With Burlington getting a flight, Wichita, KS and Madison, WI become the largest markets with 1,000 miles (i.e. regional jet range) without nonstop service to Charlotte.