A few of you might have read a letter printed earlier this week in the Springfield News-Leader. It was on the front page of the Voices section and bore the headline, “Flight intolerably bungled by TSA, airline, airport.”
It was a discouraging story told by airport customer Crystal Bell. She tells of her evening arrival at the airport only to find that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) had closed the security check point — despite the fact that her flight had yet to leave.
Besides sending the letter to the paper, Ms. Bell also sent a copy to the airport. The day after we received it, Gary Cyr, airport director of aviation, called her and offered apologies. But in the same breath he also said, “Please know that if I had any control over this it would not have happened.”
That quote probably sums up the airport’s predicament best. As I’ve said many times in this blog, the airport is a landlord. We own the terminal and the other capital infrastructure. We rent space to the airlines. We do not, and cannot, control the way they do business. Our TSA relationship works the same way.
In the case of the closed check point (and this wasn’t the first time it had happened) there was a breakdown in communication between the airline and the TSA. While the airport does not control these two entities, we do have some influence. We’ve talked to both organizations about the problem and we’ll continue to do so.
Our neighbors in central Missouri are enjoying their new service to Memphis. The Columbia Tribune reports:
"A month after more than 100 hopeful onlookers gathered at Columbia Regional Airport on Aug. 19 to celebrate Mesaba Airlines’ first flight from Columbia to Memphis, much of the fanfare is gone, but one thing remains: passengers, and more of them than the airport has had in awhile. During its first 30 days of service, Mesaba took 1,097 passengers to Memphis, which beats the previous carrier’s monthly passenger average by 220 percent."
Mesaba uses the Saab 340 on the route. It's a prop driven plane that's typically configured to hold 37 passengers. It will be interesting to see how long this service will last — particularly in light of the weak economy, high fuel prices, and the generally poor health of the Essential Air Service program.
The holiday weekend is over and here we are facing the unknown of what fall brings us and the airline industry. Most industry analysts expect a grim season.
Sunday marked the end of our Delta service to Cincinnati. So for the next seven weeks we'll have 11 destinations instead of 12. On October 23 Allegiant begins its new service to Phoenix-Mesa. Assuming nothing else changes, that will put us back to 12 destinations.
Without a doubt, the biggest unknown we face is the merger of Delta and Northwest Airlines. Will the merged carrier maintain the four destinations that Delta and Northwest currently provide us? Our best guess is no. If there's a glimmer of hope out there it's the price of oil. This morning a barrel of oil was going for $105. That's the lowest price since April. I tend to be an optimist, but I'm not taking any bets on a continuing slide in oil prices.
Mike wants answers about the airport being built in Taney County, south of Branson:
"If we are already loosing service to one city what does this mean next May when the new Branson airport opens for SGF? SGF officials have been down playing the success of the new Branson airport, but who has the real facts? They are expecting to serve 350-400,000 passengers in the first year. If vacation travel becomes a strong base for them, what if the larger carriers at SGF decide to service just on community? I read the link to the post regarding United airlines in how they are pulling out of over served markets and markets within "close" proximity. They could pull out and we would only be stuck with Allegiant and American eagle on turboprop service to St. Louis. Does SGF even have a plan for the worst case scenario?"
Mike! You’ve got a bunch of questions and thoughts there—hardly know where to start. Let’s start with one of the last things you said: "we’ll be stuck with American Eagle on turboprop service to St. Louis.” Wrong. The St. Louis service is on a jet.
You ask, “If we are already losing service to one city what does this mean next May when the new Branson airport opens for SGF?”
I have no idea—that airport isn’t finished and it apparently doesn’t have service. It’s hard to react to something that doesn’t exist.
You ask, “Who has the real facts?” What facts? You seem to suggest that the large airlines will put out of the Springfield-Branson Airport and set-up shop in Taney County. That isn’t going to happen.
You ask if we have a plan “for the worst case scenario?” What scenario is that? Losing all service because of an airport in Taney County? That’s a worst case fantasy.