Flight Blog

Sep 09 2007 Freight. Buying AirTran. Branson Charters. BY sgf-adminTAGS Misc.


Chris has several questions: "Is it possible for SGF to lure cargo companies such as FedEx or UPS to setup a small operation at SGF? Springfield's location is quite centralized and has great access with transportation using I-44."


They're already here. We've got UPS, Federal Express, DHL, and I think I'm forgetting somebody. The Cargo Boys (as we call them) are located on the northwest side of the airport where they are out of sight of the general public. The bulk of their operations occur at night, between 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. The cargo fleet operating here includes 757s, 727s and an Airbus (can't recall which model). In 2006 our air freight movement was up 38% over the previous year, with movement of 47,490,274 lbs. Here are the percentage increases for this year, January thru July:


  • January +16%
  • February +16%
  • March +5%
  • April +4%
  • May +7%
  • June +6%
  • July +7%

Freight movement has trended up for several years. It's a integral part of the airport's revenue stream. Not only do the Cargo Boys lease space and pay landing fees, we receive federal funds based on freight movement.


"Another question, is about parking, will there be more long term lots and possibly a parking structure in front of the terminal? I remember people complaining about not enough spaces and the distance between the parking lot and the terminal. Is anything being planned to ease this problem?"


There will considerably more parking, with room to expand. There will not be a parking garage.


"Also, I am wondering how can the Quad Cities have LCC AirTran flying in and out of their area? Isn't the Quad Cities MSA comparable to Springfield's MSA in population size? Wichita also has AirTran flying there, though if I remember hearing correctly AirTran is given subsidies to fly in and out of ICT, if it weren't for the subsidies they would be losing money on that route."


This is a good question and I can't give you an exact reason why. Trying to compare our market to that market is a tricky business. It's like comparing apples to oranges: every market is different. They each have their own peculiarities, demographics, industrial base, median income, etc.


Consider these market inconsistencies: the Quad Cities Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is smaller than ours (about 25,000 less), but the airport moves more people. Our airport has 12 destinations, Quad Cities has eight. AirTran has been at Quad Cities since 1997 (when it was an even smaller market!). I would guess that the close proximity to the St. Louis and Chicago MSAs have something to do with all this. If I lived in out state Illinois or Iowa, I'd probably want to deal with the Quad Cities airport, rather than St. Louis or either of the Chicago airports. Also worth noting: the AirTran service between Quad Cities and Las Vegas is not daily. And I suspect that's true for the Orlando service. In this regard, AirTran is analogous to our Allegiant Airlines service. Allegiant provides us with low cost flights to Las Vegas and Orlando on a several-times-a-week schedule.


As for the sticky subjects of subsides... You're right. AirTran receives subsides in Wichita--several million dollars a year. And a similar arrangement has been made with Frontier Airlines. Are subsides a good thing? Depends on who you ask. I think the prevailing opinion in the national airport community is probably along these lines: it's very risky. If the subsides go away, the service is likely to go with it. And bottom line: can the service be built up enough so that subsides aren't necessary?


And a final thought on AirTran. Quad Cities moves about 884,000 people a year. Wichita moves 1.4 million. AirTran gets a subsidy to fly from the bigger market--go figure. Remember what I said about apples and oranges!


"Final question, do airlines sometimes charter flights to SGF for those who just want to visit Branson?"


You've got the right idea, but it works a little differently. A travel agency or group arranges a charter. They usually charter a plane with an airline that specializes in charters, but not always. Both American and Southwest have brought charters to our airport. The most recent Southwest charters carried college sports teams to Springfield. The number of Branson bound charters has declined in recent years for one main reason: the demographic group that swarmed Branson in the 1980s and 1990s is, to put in bluntly, dying off. This group, sometimes called the Greatest Generation, grew up during the Depression and fought World War II. They came here by the plane load, got on a tour bus, and headed to Branson.


"Watcjer" pursues a couple of great questions in follow-up to last week's posting "Cheaper Fares in Tulsa:"


"I frequently fly to west coast. As usual...I can fly out of JOPLIN or FAYETTEVILLE cheaper than Springfield. I usually purchase on cheaptickets.com. At present, for a fall trip, I can fly out of either JLN or XNA for $343.00 roundtrip. It costs $510.00 out of Springfield. Why can they have competitive pricing? Are their markets larger too?"


The Joplin airport has Essential Air Service (EAS). EAS is a federally funded program which provides small cities with a "minimal level of scheduled service." Bottom line: Joplin's air service is subsidized by the federal government. In this case, two airlines are guaranteed a certain amount to fly from that market. Generally speaking, flyers pay a minimal fare. Here's a news story on the subject from the Joplin Globe.


Fayetteville is a different story altogether and I'm going to quote myself from an earlier post... The question can be answered in one word: Wal-Mart.


The NW Arkansas Airport benefits from the large concentration of national corporate offices in the area (Wal-mart, J.B. Hunt, Tyson Foods, etc.). This is why it's possible to fly nonstop from NW Arkansas to places like Miami, New York City and Los Angeles.  The service is provided due to the large number of business people making the pilgrimage to corporate Wal-Mart. Did you know that Wal-Mart requires potential vendors to come to Bentonville to make their sales pitch?


Earlier this summer the Wall Street Journal reported that that airport has the third highest ticket prices in the country due to all the business travel. Take a look at the coverage given the Journal story by a Fayetteville TV station. In 2006 Springfield moved 862,611 passengers. Northwest Arkansas moved 1,172,049. Bottom line: it's a bigger market, with a larger percentage of business traffic, which is driven by the corporate offices in the area.

Aug 23 2007 Cheaper Fares in Tulsa BY sgf-adminTAGS Fares


A columnist for a Springfield paper writes today about the frustration of finding cheaper flights in Tulsa. I felt his pain, but I also got a good chuckle. His misperceptions about the airline business are understandable and commonplace.


In trying to understand why low-cost airline ExpressJet doesn't serve Springfield, he writes, “I saw the airport in Albuquerque and I saw the airport in Tulsa. I wasn’t impressed. They weren't that much bigger than the Springfield-Branson National Airport.” That’s not quite right. Here’s how the 2006 total passenger numbers stack up:


  • Albuquerque: 6,346,159
  • Tulsa: 3,163,475
  • Springfield-Branson: 862,611

The airports in Albuquerque and Tulsa are much, much bigger than Springfield-Branson. That’s why those airports have lured ExpressJet.


It’s also worth noting that ExpressJet is not a discount carrier running in the same league as Southwest, JetBlue, AirTran, etc. It’s a regional jet company that flys for other airlines. In April it started flying under its own name at cut rate prices. This news story from Reuters sums it up well. It will be interesting to see if the airline can hold on.

Aug 17 2007 Change the Airport Name? BY sgf-adminTAGS General


Michael says, "I know that Branson was added to the airport name for marketing purposes and to produce less confusion with other Springfields probably , but I've always thought the Branson name was a slap in the face to Springfield and surrounding communities.  Any thought of changing the name to Ozarks National or something of the like to drop the Branson name but avoid the Springfield confusion?"


I have a hard time imagining a time when we would drop "Branson" from the airport's name. As you say, it was added in the mid 1990s to help travel agents and customers figure out that there is an airport near Branson. Before the name change, travel agents would plug Branson into the computer and Kansas City and St. Louis would pop up as the nearest airports! I understand that still happens, but not nearly as much as it used to. Even if the Branson airport gets air service, there will still be Branson bound people flying through this airport. So, bottom line, I don't think it would make much business sense, or customer service sense, to drop Branson from the name.

Aug 15 2007 How Does the Airport Get New Service? BY sgf-adminTAGS General


Reggie wants to know, "Is the airport or other powers to be actively seeking new airlines and destinations for our airport. If so, is any of that going on now, and how does that work. In other words, are we trying to lure additional service airlines and/or locations to our city at this time, and can you comment on what exactly is being done."


Seeking new airlines and destinations is an on-going  process. Off the top of my head, I count at least eight airlines that we've talked to since the beginning of the year. When I say we "talked to them", here's what I mean: we've provided them with statistics and our rational for why they should provide new or additional service. We keep in touch. We treat these conversations like a business negotiation. Which is to say, we don't talk about them publicly.


Occasionally (and I'm talking about the industry as whole), an airline calls out of the blue and wants to start new service. That happened here earlier this year. The airline even went as far as signing a ground handling agreement with the airport. Then they bumped their start date. They bumped it again and again. Will they eventually start service? I have no idea (grumble, grumble).