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Dayton Daily News: CVG reinvents itself in years following Delta Air Lines hub departure

Dayton Daily News / Jake Ryle, WCPO / November 28, 2022

HEBRON, Ky. — Officials at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, or CVG, claim they’ll see the most number of travelers come through the airport since the beginning of the pandemic. That’s due in large part to holiday travel.

The airport is buzzing with life in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. The holiday comes on the heels of the “game-changing” announcement that British Airways would launch a direct flight from Cincinnati to London.

“This is really the crown jewel of what we’ve been striving for for a number of years,” Candace McGraw, CEO of CVG Airport said during that announcement.

Since McGraw became the CEO in 2011, the airport has seen a number of changes.

“I heard her say this: ‘We needed to stop the bleeding and get focused on a plan.’ She put together a plan. We’ve been executing it ever since,” Mindy Kershner, a spokesperson for CVG, said in regard to McGraw.

McGraw’s plan to turn around an airport that had seen nine consecutive years of passenger decline was complex.

The year was 2005. Jobs were shuttered due to Delta Air Lines pulling its hub away from CVG, flights were cut, DHL moved its hub to nearby Wilmington, and airfare rates were sky-high. The future of the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport looked bleak.

Kershner said it was at that moment that airport officials knew they’d have to reinvent CVG.

“Really got to work, put together a strategic plan that was diversifying our operations,” Kershner said. “That’s what it comes down to — diversification. We had all our eggs in one basket. Where we relied on one airline, you see what happens.”

In 2013, under McGraw’s helm, CVG was able to attract Frontier Airlines, the airport’s first low-cost carrier. Shortly after that announcement, Allegiant and Southwest Airlines followed suit. According to the airport’s website, CVG’s cargo volume has grown by 100% from 2016 to 2021.

The airport is home to DHL’s “global super hub” and a newly constructed $1.5 billion Amazon Air cargo hub.

“We’re here to serve this region, and drive economic benefit. No better way to do that through additional air service,” McGraw said during the new route announcement.

With the addition of British Airways, CVG now has 14 air carriers.