Flight Blog

 

We read with amusement this morning a press release from Google.

 

"Google today announced that it is working with airports across the country as well as Boingo Wireless, Advanced Wireless Group, Airport Marketing Income and others to provide free Wi-Fi as a holiday gift now through January 15, 2010."

 

A free holiday gift...free Wi-Fi...really? Wow, that's great... I guess Google and all those others must have been watching us—our airport has had free Wi-Fi for the past five years. In fact, we've never charged for it.  Spread the word!

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Mike has a couple of  questions and observations:

 

"Has anyone found out what the passenger numbers are for the new Branson airport yet? I just found out AirTran will be flying to Orlando now. I'm just curious to know how well it is really doing. I also agree Springfield has a great airport. Its nice, not congested, but has a steady pace. It makes the flying experience so much more enjoyable in these times. Smaller cites with smaller airports don't have all the flight options, but they can sure have their own advantages. However, parking is expensive at this airport. But, I understand you got to make money."

 

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics now has passenger numbers for Branson. Here's how to take a look:

 

Go to this address: http://www.bts.gov

 

In the first column, on the left, look for the section called, "Airline Industry." You'll see a sub section called, "Quick Facts."  In the second column of bullet points, click on the link that says, "Passengers." This will pull up a big woolly table called, "Passengers, all carriers, all airports."

 

Use the pull down menus, right underneath the table title, to pull up numbers for both AirTran and Sun Country at the Branson airport. You can pull up data on "Passengers, Flights, Revenue Passenger-Miles, Available Seat-Miles, Load Factor, Operating Profit/Loss, Operating Revenue."

 

I don't think you'll find any financial stats, but be sure to take a look at passengers, flights, and load factor. Load factor is industry jargon for the percentage of available seats sold. Have fun!

 

Let's talk about parking. In June I compiled a list of parking charges at various airports. Here's what turned up, these numbers probably haven't changed much. Airports similar in size to Springfield:

 

  • Billings, Montana: $10 a day long term
  • Austin, Texas: $10 to $18.48 per day
  • Harlingen, Texas: $5 to $7 per day
  • Fairbanks, Alaska: $9.50 long term per day
  • Allentown, PA: $14.00 long term per day
  • Springfield, MO: $10 long term per day, maximum $50 a week.

It's a much smaller airport than Springfield, but here's the cost of parking at the Branson airport:

 

  • $12 per day – Maximum $60/week

Here are the rates at nearby larger airports:

 

  • St. Louis: $6 to $20 per day
  • Northwest Arkansas: $7 per day long term
  • Kansas City: $5.50 per day long term
  • Tulsa: $6.00 per day long term

I found that comparing parking fees is a frustrating experience. Judging by information posted on airport web sites, some airports have maximum weekly fees, others don't. At first blush it looks as though smaller airports generally have higher parking fees. But then I realized that the larger airports I was looking at didn't have discounted weekly rates. It does seem as if shorter parking stays are cheaper at bigger airports.

 

Bottom line:  from our perspective the cost of parking at SGF is very "middle-of-the-road." Airports are expensive to build, maintain and run. At our airport parking revenue is approximately 12 percent of the airport’s $11.7 million annual budget.  As you can see, parking revenue is a significant portion of the budget. Too eliminate it, or to cut it in-half, would significantly affect the level and quality of service that the airport provides.

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Oct 29 2009 More Airline Mergers? BY adminTAGS United

 

The "M" word has been out of fashion lately, but the CEO of United Airlines is uttering it again: merger.

 

The Financial Times reports: "Glenn Tilton told the Financial Times that consolidation should still play a role in shaping the US aviation industry's future, adding that balance sheets had "probably" improved enough to help finance prospective merger plans. "There is still too much capacity in the US market," he said."

 

When Tilton brings up the topic of "too much capacity," here's what he's saying: the airlines could charge higher fares if there were fewer seats in the air. It's the economics law of supply and demand: fewer seats mean higher fares; more seats mean lower fares.

 

Tilton has other motives as well. Read this recent story about the general state of United Airlines.

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Several things to mention today...they've been piling up all week! Our passenger growth streak continues:  September total passenger numbers were up 13%, compared to the same month last year. Up 5% year to year, and up 19 percent since December 31. Our air service consultant summed it up best: "Your numbers are running completely counter to the national trend."

 

Around the office we're getting a little edgy about over analyzing our good fortunes this year—don't want to jinx it or anything. So if you'd like to know some of the reasons why our passenger numbers are growing, please read a blog entry from a couple of months ago: Passenger Numbers Continue to Skyrocket.

 

Edgy or not, I do want to mention one thing about September's numbers: United’s numbers look better. The airline's numbers took a nose dive starting in June:

 

  • June -8%
  • July -15%
  • August -16%
  • September -8%

Yes, United is still down, but not in double digits.  United's health is a nagging concern. To get a feel for where the nag comes from, read this recent story from USA Today.

 

Heard the good news about Allegiant Air? The airline ended the third quarter, "with a $13.8 million profit that represented a nearly threefold gain over the $4.9 million surplus reported in the year-ago period." It's always nice to have good news to report about one of your airlines! BTW, Allegiant's passenger numbers in Springfield were up 140% in September. Yes, you read right: one-hundred and forty percent.

 

Got some not-so-good news to report for airline customers: fares continue to edge up. We've mentioned it several times on these pages, but it's worth repeating: fares have no where to go but up. For the past few months most of the airlines have sold seats below cost. As the economy starts to improve, and more people start flying, the airlines will have the traction they need to raise fares. The traction is made possible by the huge cuts airlines have made in the number of seats in the air.  Read more about it from Reuters.

 


FOLLOW-UP October 27, 2009 Several have asked about the total number of airport passengers in September...what was the actual number? Here it is: 65,342.

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"Poorly."

 

How's that for a loaded word? Guess what? A "journalist" is flinging it as us.

 

According to Wednesday's Wall Street Journal, "The FAA this year has directed about $272 million in stimulus funds -- or roughly 25% of the $1.1 billion provided to the agency for airport work -- to projects that scored poorly on the agency's national priority rating system, which the FAA uses to grade potential projects." The paper attributes this information to a so-called "government watchdog group," called Subsidyscope.

 

As you've guessed by now, our airport has one of these allegedly poor projects—it's our new taxiway project.  Earlier this year the FAA gave us $14.8 million of federal stimulus money to build taxiway "whiskey."

 

The paper's story has a sidebar list and we're at the very top of it. The heading says:

 

Justified? Although projects with national priority ratings below 62 may have questionable economic merit, many airports are receiving federal stimulus funds for them.

 

Right below that text it shows shows our airport. Our priority rating is listed as 49 and it shows we received "$14.9 million."

 

What the paper fails to report is that while our project allegedly scored "poorly" on the FAA's  national priority rating system for stimilus projects, it did meet safety requirements. In other words, the safety concerns addressed by the project gave the project the boost it needed to garner federal stimulus money. Read more about the taxiway project here.

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