Citing sagging profits, America West Airlines is canceling its twice-daily commuter service from Oxnard to Phoenix.
The airline began offering the flights in November with the hope of luring travelers to its Arizona hub to catch connecting flights to 88 destinations around the nation.
But America West spokeswoman Patty Nowack said the flights were not profitable and the airline will end its service Sept. 5.
“We are as disappointed about it as anybody, but the reality is that economically it is not a profitable flight for us,” Nowack said Wednesday.
The announcement surprised and disappointed Ventura County tourism and airport officials, who believed America West’s shuttle service, through affiliate Mesa Airlines, was gaining popularity.
“It came as a total shock to me,” said Carl Eaves, owner of Airport Travel Agency, which operates from the Oxnard Airport terminal. “I was looking for expansion, I really was.
“It is going to have an impact on the county for sure,” he added. “It was a service that was just starting to grow.”
Carol Lavender, director of the Oxnard Convention and Visitors Bureau, and her counterparts in Ventura and Fillmore recently flew to Phoenix to promote their communities and lure desert dwellers to the coast.
In meetings with tour operators and travel agents, they championed the hassle-free air service to Oxnard. Lavender was planning another trip for next year and a marketing campaign.
Those plans are now on hold.
“It just makes me sick,” Lavender said. “We had something really hot going there.”
Ventura County Airport Director Scott Smith said a softening economy and a decline in business travelers made it difficult for America West to get its service off the ground.
The airline offered two nonstop flights daily on twin-engine turboprop planes carrying up to 37 passengers. A round-trip flight from Oxnard to Phoenix next month on America West was priced at about $190 Wednesday, while a flight from Los Angeles to Phoenix at the same time on a different airline was priced at about $103.
“When they came into the market they knew it would take them some time,” Smith said. But when any airline begins to lose money, he said, “the first thing that is going to go are any routes that aren’t profitable.”
Smith said the effect on the county will be twofold. Travelers will have fewer options when booking flights and will have to rely more heavily on air services at Burbank, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles airports.
And Oxnard Airport will lose about $20,000 in fees generated by the air service, Smith said. He noted, however, that United Airlines recently decided to add a sixth daily shuttle flight to Los Angeles, which should soften the blow.
Nowack said America West tried to avoid cutting its Oxnard service by raising fares to offset losses. But the move drove passengers away. She said travelers with questions about the canceled service should call the airline’s main reservations number at (800) 235-9292.
From Eaves’ vantage point at the Oxnard Airport terminal, a steady stream of passengers appeared to be using the flights to Phoenix. He believes the airline didn’t give Oxnard a chance.
“I think it is a premature pullout,” he said. “I don’t think they gave it nearly enough time.”