Flight Blog

Aug 07 2008 Phoenix ! ! ! ! ! BY sgf-adminTAGS Allegiant

 

It was just a couple of weeks ago that we had to give the community the bad news about losing Delta service to Cincinnati at the end of August. Now we have good news…

 

It was our pleasure this morning to announce that Allegiant Air is adding a new destination from the Springfield-Branson National Airport: Phoenix.

 

Non-stop flights begin October 22 with two flights a week on Wednesday and Saturday. With this addition, Allegiant now provides our airport with four destination cities: Las Vegas, Orlando, Tampa…and now…Phoenix.

 

This is very, very good news…especially in light of what’s happening to communities across the country, as airlines reduce and cut service. The addition of this new service…on a low-cost airline…tells us that our air market is far from being down and out. Allegiant began flying from here three years ago…providing low-cost fares to just one place: Las Vegas By the end of its first full month of operation in Springfield…that was in May of 2005…it flew about 14-hundred passengers.

 

Fast forward to May of this year—Allegiant flew 6,300 passengers from Springfield. Allegiant has grown from being our smallest airline, when measured by passengers, to being our fourth largest. In the process of providing low-cost fares, the airline has helped our community by raising customer awareness—more and more people are discovering that sometimes you can fly from Springfield for less than Tulsa, Kansas City, or St. Louis.

 

We are certainly not immune to the problems facing the airline business, but today’s announcement of new service is further proof of the strength of our community and the strength of our airport. Read the Allegiant press release here.


Aug 04 2008 Laptop Seizure BY sgf-adminTAGS TSA

 

Flying overseas soon? If so, you need to read a story in the Washington Post concerning laptop computers and other digital devices...

 

"Federal agents may take a traveler's laptop computer or other electronic device to an off-site location for an unspecified period of time without any suspicion of wrongdoing, as part of border search policies the Department of Homeland Security recently disclosed."

 

The story continues...

 

""They're [ Department of Homeland Security ] saying they can rifle through all the information in a traveler's laptop without having a smidgen of evidence that the traveler is breaking the law," said Greg Nojeim, senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology. Notably, he said, the policies "don't establish any criteria for whose computer can be searched."" Read more here.


 

Delta Airlines is dropping its service between Springfield and Cincinnati, effective August 31. We received word late Friday afternoon. The airline says “The decision was made after careful review of the passenger demand and where they are connecting to and from in regards to the SGF market place.  With the price of fuel at all time highs, we find ourselves having to make decisions like the CVG-SGF service.”

 

The news is disappointing but not a surprise. As we’ve said many times on this blog and in public: “we’ll be lucky to get through the year without losing service.”

 

While the airline cites fuel prices as the reason, the pending merger between Delta and Northwest may be a factor as well. To get a sense of how the merger could play into this, consider the following:

 

  1. Delta and Northwest provide Springfield-Branson with service to five destinations: Cincinnati and Atlanta via Delta. Minneapolis, Memphis and Detroit via Northwest.
  2. Each of these destination cities is a hub for the airlines.
  3. Look at a United States map. See how you can almost draw a straight line from Memphis to Cincinnati to Detroit? That’s too many hubs too close together for one airline. Something has to give with hubs that close together. Considering the fact that Delta dropped Cincinnati service to at least twelve other cities as well, it looks as if the hub status of the Cincinnati airport is in for some major adjustments.

On a vaguely brighter note, Delta is tentatively adding another Springfield daily flight to Atlanta, for a total of four. The airline says it “can serve the demand flowing over CVG from ATL.” Translation: passengers that connected in Cincinnati to other cities can now connect in Atlanta.


 

exjet.gifExpressJet is ending its branded service. The culprit–high fuel prices. The ExpressJet situation is a bit complicated, so please bear with me.

 

ExpressJet is a regional airline that has flown under its own name and for big airlines. Today ExpressJet announced it will stop flying under its own name, but will continue flying under the Continental Express brand. The move does not directly affect Springfield-Branson service, but will apparently affect the Tulsa airport. ExpressJet provides Tulsa with service to points west and Canada. Read the Reuter's story here. Read the company press release here.


 

Steve wants to know:

 

"What is Springfield Airport doing to be proactive to do their best to land low cost airlines to the Springfield Airport to minimize competition with Branson?"

 

Steve is talking about the airport being built in Taney County, south of Branson.

 

Here's what we're doing, Steve: we’re doing what we’ve always done. We talk to airlines on a regular basis. We share data and aviation studies. We tell them about our ground services program. We tell them about our marketing incentives program and our low airport fees. We tell them about the strength of the air market and how it has grown so much the past 20 years. We continue to do what we’ve done because it has proven so successful. Our passenger numbers have grown 30% since the beginning of the decade. We have five airlines and 12 destination cities—an exceptionally strong showing for a small market airport.

 

If this strikes you as nothing more than bragging on the past then let me offer this: I’m not very good at blowing smoke. I’ve never been good at excessive “spin” and what I call “happy talk.” We all know what happy talk is. Example: you ask me when we’ll have a low cost airline flying to New York? My response: "we’re hopeful that we’ll have that service soon! We’re talking to airlines right now!" Happy talk is delivered with effusive energy and a big smile on your face.

 

I don’t do happy talk because people can see through it; they’re tired of spin–they can spot it a mile away (it’s everywhere!); all they want is a straight answer. So here it is… The Springfield-Branson air market is unusually strong for being such a small market. Even so, it is not strong enough or big enough to attract a big low cost airline. The business metrics just aren’t there-especially in today’s plunging airline economy. The metrics weren’t there even when oil cost less than a hundred dollars a barrel. Consider today’s situation:

 

Consider this: vacation destinations are seeing reductions in air service. Air service in Las Vegas is down 12 percent. Orlando is down about eight percent. Why would airlines cut service to such cities? Because vacation travelers are low yield traffic—meaning that the airlines don't make much money on them. Airlines (both low-cost and legacy carriers) prefer to concentrate on business travelers. That's where the money is.

 

Steve also wonders: "How can Branson attract low cost airlines when Springfield can't, especially when their 1st year emplanements are projected at 250,000 - 300,000, with  capacity at 750,000?"

 

It's conceivable that that airport could pay a big airline for limited service—something like the arrangement in Wichita where the city, state and county pay AirTran millions of dollars for service. If you want some entertaining reading on the subject of Wichita, plug this into Google and hit return: "airtran wichita subsides." Don't use my quotation marks. Read a previous posting on the general subject of air service development by clicking here.