Flight Blog


In response to an earlier post, about Southwest Airlines providing service in Branson, Keven writes:

"Okay, after reading all of this I’m still confused about why SGF can’t lure in SWA. I have a family member living in Columbia, MO. They said right now the Columbia City Council really wants to have a second destination added out of COU. Mike Boyd the same guy that advises SGF said that providing an airline a revenue guarantee is really the only way Columbia service can be expanded out of COU in the near future. So, my confusion is why SGF says that BKG only has the air service they have now is because they provided an airline subsidy and can do so only because they are privately owned. Columbia though is publicly owned just like SGF and apparently it is perfectly legal for them to subsidize air service, but SGF claims that they cannot. I don’t want to come across as being on the attack but, I just want to know more about this. I really like the SGF airport and despise the Shack of a terminal in Branson. If I were SWA I would fly out of SGF to serve the Branson market. (SGF-HOU, SGF-BWI, SGF-MSP, all sound great to me). I agree, SGF has a great modern terminal and a larger local population base with interstate connectivity. One more thing . . . if Columbia is able and does subsidies a new destination provided by another airline I think Delta will have to seriously consider asking for the same privilege or pulling out of the market all together. Yes, they obviously have been profitable which is why Columbia does not participate in Essential Air Service anymore. But I think there is something to be said about an even playing field and loyalty between airport and airline."

It is confusing Keven, thanks for asking. I'm sure you're not the only person who has wondered the same thing. This confusion is helped along by inaccurate newspaper reporting. I'm fairly sure you (or your family member) read a story from last week's Columbia Tribune. Among other things the story says, "A revenue guarantee is an agreement between an airline and an airport that a route will make a certain amount of revenue for the airline and that the airport will offer a certain amount of money as an insurance policy in case the airline loses revenue in providing service to an airport. The Pittsburgh International Airport, for example, was able to start nonstop service to Paris through Delta after offering a $9 million revenue guarantee, according to a 2011 report in The Patriot-News, a Harrisburg, Pa., newspaper."

The Tribune also writes, "An air travel consultant { Michael Boyd } told business and government leaders yesterday that a second destination city for Columbia Regional Airport would be more likely to result from a revenue guarantee for an air service provider than from a terminal expansion."

Here's the deal... Boyd is saying that a revenue guarantee would have to come from somewhere... What I'm sure he didn't say is that the guarantee would come from the airport. So what about that "somewhere?" Where else can revenue guarantees come from for service at public airports? There are two sources:

  1. The Essential Air Service (EAS) program. This is federal funding that's used to bring air service to small communities that wouldn't have the service otherwise. Joplin has EAS service.
  2. The second funding source doesn't really have a name. It's money that comes from the community — meaning local businesses, or government entities, such as the county or state.

Probably the biggest example of this "community" approach is the AirTran (soon to be Southwest) service in Wichita. Under a four party arrangement, the State of Kansas, Sedgwick County, and the City of Wichita, pay AirTran several million dollars a year to provide service. Note who doesn't pay: the Wichita airport. So, when Michael Boyd told the folks in Columbia that "a second destination city for Columbia Regional Airport would be more likely to result from a revenue guarantee," he was talking about some sort of "community" funding. He was not talking about the airport providing the money.

Let's get back to that reporting in the Tribune that said the Pittsburgh airport paid Delta $9 million for service to Paris... The money actually came from the State of Pennsylvania, and the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. That's according to the Pittsburgh Tribune. What I said in the original post still stands: " The Springfield airport is a publicly owned airport, which receives federal funding. Under federal aviation law it’s illegal for an airport, which receives federal funding, to pay for airline service." Hope this makes sense — it is complicated. More questions? Please ask!


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Not sure how many of you have a hankering to go to Dubai, but it just got a whole lot easier to get there from Springfield. Starting today, Emirates Airline flies direct from Dallas to the Middle East megalopolis. That means you can fly to Dallas, from Springfield, and then jump over to the Emirate flight. To put it another way, fly to Dubai with just one stop.

The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram reports that, "Airline and regional officials hailed the launch of the flight as significant in opening connections between North Texas, the Middle East, India, Africa and other points. Read the rest of the story here.


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Jan 24 2012 Southwest in Branson? BY adminTAGS Branson airport, Southwest


We've had several inquiries about the announcement last Friday that Southwest Airlines will continue the AirTran service to the Branson airport. For those of you haven't kept up, here's some brief background...

AirTran Airways has provided subsidized service at the Branson airport for the past couple of years. AirTran was bought out by Southwest Airlines in 2010. Last week Southwest announced that the Branson airport "will eventually join the Southwest route map." Since the announcement, people have had two questions for the Springfield airport: 1) how will Southwest service affect air service in Springfield, and 2) why did Southwest go to Branson instead of Springfield?

Here's a post we got from Mike:

"So, I read this weekend the final list of airports that will not receive service from Southwest Airlines once the AirTran merger is completed. Branson was not included on that list.  Whats the logic? I know AirTran gets a subsidy, but I heard that passenger numbers are not so great for Branson.  Any truth?  I thought the population base of SW Mo doesn't fit into the SWA business model.  Maybe SW views Branson as a vacation market similar to  Reno-Lake Tahoe or something? It seems to me that if SW wanted to serve the area they would do so out of SGF.  Much larger local population base and the new terminal is amazing.  Outside of living in a hub city I think cities like SGF with a modern terminal have it the best.  Flying in and out of SGF has so many affordances that make it virtually zero stress for me."

Mike... the logic boils down to this:  the Branson airport is paying for the service. It can do this because it's a privately owned airport  The Springfield airport is a publicly owned airport, which receives federal funding. Under federal aviation law it’s illegal for an airport, which receives federal funding, to pay for airline service.

As for the impact on Springfield air service, it's too early to tell. But given the limited number of daily flights, and the limited number of destinations, it probably will not be significant. We think it’s unlikely that Southwest will make significant changes to number of flights or destinations…but at this point we just don’t know because Southwest isn’t saying.


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One of the world's best aviation analyst is someone you've never likely heard of: Bill Swelbar. This week, on his Swelblog, he gives an astute assessment of what the AMR bankruptcy potentially means for the industry and consumers:

"The lack of news from it [AMR] or the bankruptcy court probably has a lot of people - union leaders, media, employees, communities – wondering what is taking so long. That’s the first key to understanding this airline bankruptcy is different and why other airlines such as United, Delta and Southwest as well as the federal government and even regional carriers are keenly watching and waiting. Unlike all the other airlines that have gone through Chapter 11, American doesn’t have a Debtor In Possession (DIP) lender breathing down its neck. That’s because the AMR board of directors made a strategic decision to file for bankruptcy with more than $4 billion in cash in the bank. That’s more cash than any airline that’s ever entered bankruptcy has had on hand and one of the highest totals in U.S. corporate history."

According to Swelbar, that $4 billion cushion gives AMR the time it needs to make the very best of its reorganization. Read the entire post here.


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Dec 15 2011 Overstuffed? BY adminTAGS Airlines


suitcase"Already armed with an exhaustive list of checked bag fees, some airlines are stepping up their enforcement of weight limits for carry-ons. This may lead to aggravation if an airline agent weighs your bag at the gate and then charges you."

Read the rest from the Associated Press, via USA Today.


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