The number of people using our airport grew 10% in the first two months of 2012, compared to 2011. 103,752 total passengers used the airport in January and February, up from 94,311 total passengers during the same period in 2011. February passenger numbers alone increased 16%.
All four airlines serving the airport (Allegiant, American, Delta and United) saw an increase in passenger numbers. The increase came despite a big decline in the number of seats the airlines are bringing to the market — the number of available seats was down 21.5% in 2011. Why the cuts in seats? The airlines were cutting costs by shrinking their route systems in response to the recession and high fuel prices.
Many airports across the country saw a decline in available seats The recent growth numbers in our market may be a sign that Springfield has bottomed out and growth will continue. The airlines seem to agree. Allegiant added seven flights to its March schedule in Springfield and is now using larger 166-seat MD80 aircraft on its Phoenix and Los Angeles routes. Delta added a fourth daily flight to Atlanta in February, and United adds a fourth daily Denver flight in April.
What’s driving the growth so far this year? The improvements we’re seeing in the regional economy have a lot to do with it. In December, the Springfield unemployment rate was less than 7%. That’s very good compared to the rest of the country. Employment is a key driver in passenger demand: if more people have a job, more people will fly. Another reason for the growth is probably the airport’s marketing efforts. We’ve made a concerted effort to raise public awareness about what the airport offers: ten non-stop destinations and four airlines, including low-cost airline Allegiant, which, as you blog readers know, often has round trip fares to places like Los Angeles and Florida for less than $200. As more people find fares like that, passenger numbers are bound to grow.