Renato Camacho is exactly where he’s worked to be. The new(ish) president and CEO of the Akron-Canton Airport has had his eye on an opportunity to work with an airport possibly as far back as his days as a child in the Bronx.
There, he would catch a ride on the city bus his father drove and, where its route terminated across the water from LaGuardia Airport, they would sit and watch the jets take off and land. These experiences helped coalesce his interests in civil engineering and, indirectly, aviation.
But, after 25 years working in the aviation and transportation engineering sectors, including time with the City of Cleveland’s Department of Port Control and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, Camacho arrives at Akron-Canton as it’s dealing with a six-year slide in passenger traffic after carrier mergers and hub consolidations led to carrier losses. It’s also a time when airlines, dealing with their own challenges, are increasingly choosey, which means airports need to compete more aggressively for their business.
And so while Camacho is happy to have his shot at running an airport, he’s arrived during a trying time for the business.
It happens. Carriers leave airports. Camacho has seen it before. When United Airlines substantially reduced its flying from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport in early 2014, it was a newsworthy event. Camacho, at the time, was working for the Cleveland Department of Port Control, where he was chief of planning and engineering. He was part of the team that had to deal with the fallout from United’s decision when the carrier dropped 60 percent of its average daily departures from Cleveland Hopkins. From 2013 to 2014, passenger volume dropped 16 percent, from a little more than 9 million to 7.6 million.
The airport worked to recapture that traffic by courting airlines that were looking for new opportunities. One of those was Southwest Airlines, which ultimately left Akron-Canton and moved its flights to Cleveland. Cleveland and Akron, however, aren’t best characterized as rivals. Competition for carriers is broader than that.
“They have to maximize their profit margins, so they’re really hyper-focused on which parts of the country they want to focus on because they can move an aircraft anywhere they want,” Camacho says.