There’s more great new to report about the airport’s passenger numbers: they’re up, again. We finished the month of July with 84,079 total passengers. That’s up 13 percent from the same month last year.
In June our numbers were up ten percent. In May they were up 17 percent.
This growth may not seem significant, but it is. Why? Before May we had 15 consecutive months of negative or flat numbers. It’s even more significant because we’re currently the only airport in the region experiencing growth. Example: the Tulsa airport’s July numbers were down 11 percent. Recession or no, for some reason our numbers are up and everyone else’s are down.
Why are we growing? This is starting to sound like a broken record, but here are some of the reasons:
- The fare sales the airlines have had since the early spring. More people are flying from Springfield because the airlines have generally lowered fares in an attempt to keep the planes full. Here’s a key point: the lower fare phenomena is happening nation wide—it’s not limited to just our air market. If you think about this moment, it’s easy to conclude that passenger numbers should be up at our competing airports. But they’re not. Why? Well, read on…
- Between January and May 6 the Springfield media market was saturated with advertising and news stories about the new terminal. This raised awareness of the airport and caused some people to check out the cost of fares.
- American Airlines decided to compete with the Sun Country Airlines service between the new Branson airport and Dallas. That’s resulted in American fare between Springfield and Dallas for less than $200. In case you're wondering, Delta, which provides our service to Atlanta, has chosen to ignore the AirTran service between Branson and Atlanta.
- Allegiant Air. In July Allegiant flew more than 20,000 people in and out of Springfield. That’s up 50 percent over last year. Allegiant has become the second largest airline in Springfield. American is number one, then Allegiant, followed by Delta and United.
- The relative strength of the Southwest Missouri economy. Our economy is doing better than most of the country.
Those are some of the reasons why our airport is doing well. We can’t point to any reason and say “that’s it!”
So, the news is good: fares are relatively low and the airport is booming. But, beware—things could get bad just as quickly as they got good. The warning signs are out there:
- Industry analysts expect the airlines to continue cutting the number of seats in the air. By the end of this year airline capacity is expected to be down ten percent year to year.
- Our aviation consultant says “the effects of the latest job cuts have not reached the ticket counter, yet.” In other words, our demand could go down as jobs continue to be cut.
To sum it all up: the economy is the great wild card…
FOLLOW-UP: AUGUST 20, 2009
Steve shares compliments and a question:
"Great news. Since you're able to find out the passengers numbers of other airports. . . Could you please tell us how the Branson airport is doing? I wonder how many passengers are flying in there?"
We're able to tell you how other airports are doing because, like us, they're publicly owned. As such, their passenger numbers are public record. Now the Branson airport, that's another matter. It's privately owned so it says it doesn't have to release its numbers. Sounds good, but there's a little more to it...
The City of Branson has agreed to give the airport $8.24 for each passenger that gets off the plane, with a cap of $2 million a year. That's public money. That means it's a public record. The agreement allows the airport to collect every three months. The airport opened on May 11, so expect it to submit passenger numbers to the city soon. By the way, if the airport maximizes its public funding from the city, it will need to unload roughly 242,000 passengers a year.
Besides the anticipated money from the City of Branson, the airport also gets state aviation jet fuel tax money and is attempting to get more. As time goes on, the blur between "private" and "public" becomes increasingly blurry. Bottom line: at some point the Branson airport will have to release its passenger numbers because it's receiving tax money.