Flight Blog

Sep 24 2012 Catch As Catch Can BY adminTAGS Airlines, Airports

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

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.

FARES

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...
 

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Allegiant logoWe've had several questions lately about the status of Allegiant's service between Springfield and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Several of you have noticed that LAX trips can't be booked from Springfield after mid-January 2013. Here's what's going on...

For the past few months Allegiant has had problems getting gate space at LAX. As we understand there's a general shortage of gate space at LAX that has been exacerbated by airport construction. As a result Allegiant has dropped several of its LAX routes.

Allegiant management has told us that they’ve made no decision concerning our LAX service. It’s our impression that Allegiant is working to resolve its issues at LAX and is considering many options. Who knows...it might even decide to start flying from another airport is the LA area.

The bottom line is that the LAX issue is a problem that's affecting the entire Allegiant route system. And, as Allegiant management told me today, the Springfield/LAX service, "is a route we hope to continue."

 

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Sep 19 2012 Safe Haven BY adminTAGS How the Airport Works

 

Image of a light houseChances are you’ve never thought of an airport as a place to seek aid and comfort. But sometimes that’s exactly what it is.

Think of it this way: airplane passengers are travelers in an ocean of air. If something goes wrong they need to find the nearest island. That’s what an airport is — an island in the unforgiving ocean — a safe haven.
 
We never know when a plane might pop out of the clouds over Springfield needing assistance. It happened this morning.  At about 10:40 the alarm sounded: a Southwest Airlines’ plane was ten miles out and headed our way — a passenger was having a heart attack. The 737 had been flying from Chicago to San Antonio. Now, it was diverting to SGF.

Of all the airports along the path, why choose SGF? Because the airlines know what most people who live here don’t — SGF is the best-equipped airport in the region. We have 17 full time aircraft rescue firefighters (ARFF) and state-of-the-art firefighting equipment. On average we respond to 50 aircraft and medical emergencies a year. Our well-equipped ARFF, combined with the airport’s long runways, and central location, make SGF a primary “diversion airport” for American Airlines. If an American flight has mechanical problems over the central United States, there’s a good chance it will divert to SGF for an emergency landing. These are the things the airlines know about SGF.
 
About ten minutes after the alarm sounded the 737 bore down on Runway 14/32. After landing it made a quick dash to Gate 2 where Airport medical personnel were waiting; an ambulance from Cox Hospitals was just minutes away.Southwest flight 2014 finds safe haven at SGF Gate 2

As far as we know this story has a good ending.  The patient was alert and conscious.  His wife followed the gurney to the ambulance, and, as far as I could tell, was in good humor (considering the circumstances).  It’s hard to imagine what it must be like… One minute you’re winging your way to San Antonio, the next thing you know you’re grounded in unknown territory. And sick to boot.

Meanwhile, schedulers at Southwest were busy adjusting flight times and crew schedules. The flight crew readied to sail as more fuel was put onboard. Passengers peered out the windows and were undoubtedly checking their watches — impatient to leave our safe haven. San Antonio would have to wait a bit longer.

 

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Aug 27 2012 PED Alert! BY adminTAGS Customer Service, FAA

 

Way back in March the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it was going take a fresh look at its own rules that forbid you from using electronic gadgets on airplanes. The decision to review the rules was prompted, at least in part, by a couple of things: 1) In December of last year the FAA said that pilots could used iPads during take offs and landings (but passengers couldn't), and 2) the Alec Baldwin affair.

Today the FAA made the review more or less official with this press release:

"Given the widespread consumer use of portable electronic devices (PEDs), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is forming a government-industry group to study the current PED policies and procedures aircraft operators use to determine when these devices can be used safely during flight.  Current FAA regulations require an aircraft operator to determine that radio frequency interference from PEDs are not a flight safety risk before the operator authorizes them for use during certain phases of flight.

“With so many different types of devices available, we recognize that this is an issue of consumer interest,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Safety is our highest priority, and we must set appropriate standards as we help the industry consider when passengers can use the latest technologies safely during a flight.”

The government-industry group will examine a variety of issues, including the testing methods aircraft operators use to determine which new technologies passengers can safely use aboard aircraft and when they can use them. The group will also look at the establishment of technological standards associated with the use of PEDs during any phase of flight. The group will then present its recommendations to the FAA...."

 

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"Airfares are going nowhere but up for the rest of the year, industry analysts are predicting in the wake of another successful fare increase by U.S. airlines to offset high fuel costs."

That's the gist of a story in today's Houston Chronicle. The Chronicle reports that, "Southwest Airlines hiked round-trip fares by $10 on 30 percent of its routes on Friday. The nation's four other major carriers - United, American, Delta and US Airways - matched the increase within hours."

The rest of the news is not surprising: nearly everyone expects more fare hikes before the end of the year. Read the entire story here.

 

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