Allegiant recently flew its 500,000th customer from our airport. The half-a-million milestone was reached in May; almost exactly seven years after the low fare airline began flying from Springfield.
Allegiant began service here in April 2005 with low fare flights to Las Vegas. Flights to Orlando, Tampa/St. Petersburg, Phoenix, and Los Angeles followed.
The importance of the airline to this market should not be underestimated. Because of Allegiant people fly from Springfield who wouldn't have flown otherwise. That's because it's not unsual to find round trip fare on Allegiant for less than $200. And it's not just people from this area who are doing it. People come here from Tulsa. From Kansas City. Central Missouri. Northern Arkansas. St. Louis. They come here to fly on Allegiant.
Allegiant’s passenger milestone comes at a time that finds passenger numbers up in Springfield. For the period January through August, total passenger numbers were up 4.5%. Here’s how that compares with other airports in the region:
TOTAL PASSENGERS (ARRIVING & DEPARTING)
January through August, 2012, compared to the same period last year
|Northwest Arkansas||- 1%|
|St. Louis||+ 2%|
|Kansas City||- 1.4%|
Yes, our passenger numbers are bucking the trend. Will it continue? Our best guess is that we'll finish the year with flat passenger numbers, or up slightly. This forecast is based on the fact that the airlines have announced more nation wide capacity cuts (fewer seats in the air) for the rest of the year. Why cut? The price of jet fuel and the sluggish economy. While this may sound dreary, it's a whole lot better than last year...we finished 2011 with an 8% decline in passengers, and a 21% cut in capacity. So this year is much, much better.
Allegiant will soon offer passengers video-on-demand. That's according to a press release from Row 44.
Allegiant serves our airport with non-stop flights to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Orlando, and Tampa/St. Pete. According to the press release the video service will primarily be offered on Allegiant's Hawaiian flights. Read the release here.
Last week's posting about the soon-to-be phasing out of regional jets prompted these comments and questions from SGFpilot:
"Yeah for bigger jets at SGF!! That's always exciting. DO you think it will be the bigger 70-90seat RJ's like the CRJ-900 and Embraer 170/190 replacing the 50 seat CRJ-200's and EMB-145? OR will it be out with the RJ's alltogether and some Airbus A-318's, 737's, MD-80/DC-9's coming in? Any insight?"
It's hard to say exactly what will replace the 50-seats-or-less regional jets (RJs) in Springfield, but here are some candidates:
- Embraer E-170, E-175, E-190. Street name: E-Jets. These three planes are essentially bigger versions of the 50 seat ERJs. These bigger planes typically seat between 70 and 110 passengers
- Mitsubishi Regional Jet. Street name: MRJ. Brand new design. Seats: between 70 and 90. Earlier this summer the biggest regional airline, SkyWest, committed to buying up to 100 MRJs.
- Boeing 717. It's fairly clear that Delta intends to replace many of its RJs with the 717s it's aquiring from Southwest. 717s typically have 117 seats.
- Less likely candidate to replace RJs in Springfield: 737s (any variant).
- Even less likely candidates to replace RJs in Springfield: Sukhoi Superjet, and the Fokker 70.
- What we won't see: more MD-80s, or DC-9s.
I suspect many of you are happy with the thought of bigger jets. But there is a down side: fewer flights...
Example: right now American has seven daily flights to Dallas. Let's assume that all these flights are on 50 seat aircraft. That's a total of 350 seats a day. Suppose American switched to 90 seat jets. It would only need four flights a day to carry the same number of people. The reduction in flights means that travelers have less flexibility flying to/from Dallas.
I've got a bunch of tid-bits to share, none of which really deserve their own posting. Here they are, in no particular order...
I spent part of last week in Dallas at the International Aviation Forecast Summit. It's an annual event that includes airlines, airports, and aircraft manufacturers. Here are a few of the summit's insights:
Regional jets (RJs) are on the way out and the trend is accerlerating. The expectation that most RJs will be retired is not new news. What is new, however, is the rate at which they'll disappear. Gary Chase, a senior vice president at Delta Airlines, told the summit audience that his airline will retire 200 RJs by 2015.
RJs are those small jets (generally 50-seats or less) that many of you love to hate — they provide most of the service at our airport. The airlines started using them several years ago because they are (or were) cheaper to operate than bigger jets (such as MD-80s or 737s). The rising cost of jet fuel has changed all that — there just aren't enough seats to sell on an RJ to pay for the fuel. Bottom line: before long we'll see bigger jets serving Springfield.
DOMESTIC AIRLINE GROWTH (NOT)
Airlines are no longer growing their route systems for growth's sake. Historically, airline system expansion was basically directly tied to the growth of the national economy. As the economy grew, the airlines grew. Several factors have conspired to change that — mainly rising fuel costs, and the world-wide recession.
So what's replaced "growth for growth's sake?" For the first time in history airline systems are shrinking. Airlines have stopped flying to places where the economic margins are low. They're only flying to places where they know they can make money. Bottom line: airline growth will be very slow in the foreseeable future — less than two percent growth a year. Some small cities will lose air service all together.
No one at the summit thinks air fares will go down — only up. That's depressing news but its economic reality. There's really only one thing that could drive fares down: lower fuel prices. And no one expects that to happen...
Moving on to other tid-bits...
There's good news for the many Springfield fliers who make connections at Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport (DFW). That airport now has free Wi-Fi. Judging by the way it worked last week, I'd say the system is still being tweaked. No matter — a scratchy Wi-Fi signal was preferable to paying ten bucks! No doubt the system will get better.
Saving the best news for last...
Our total passenger numbers at SGF are still up for the year. We finished August up 4.5% year-to-date. The number of scheduled airline flights, January - August was down -0.9%.
To put these numbers in perspective, consider our performance last year: the number of airline flights was down 16% and total passengers were down 8.1%. So we're doing much better. Keeping our fingers crossed...