Let’s start with good news, then move on to the bad…
After six consecutive months of double digit passenger declines, we’re relieved to report that March passengers numbers were down only one percent. This improvement brought our yearly decline from minus 14 percent, to minus nine percent.
Why the improvement? I’d like to say it’s the result of an improving economic situation—but I’m not going to be that bold. It has much more to do with Allegiant Airlines and its seasonal addition of more flights. In March, Allegiant numbers were up 55 percent over the same month last year! March numbers for the other airlines were all in negative numbers. Delta led the pack: down 24 percent for the month.
The declining passenger numbers do have a bright side: in an attempt to sell more seats, the airlines are cutting the price of fares…and not just fares between major hubs, or hubs and foreign capitals. Example: American is now offering some seats between here and Dallas for $200 or less. A couple of days ago I talked to a Springfield chamber member who tracked down roundtrip fare between here and Dallas for $150. That includes taxes and fees. So good news for customers, but I dare say bad news for the airlines. Today American reported a first quarter loss of $375 million.
And now some bad news... We found out on Monday that we’re losing Delta service to Detroit, effective May 1. Delta planners tell me that they had planned to continue the service, but last minute schedule changes effectively left our market without a plane to service the route. The planners say, “they might bring the service back, but we can’t give you a time frame.”
It’s probably not a stretch to say this is further fallout from the merger of Delta and Northwest (the Detroit service was on Northwest). On the other hand, we’ve known for some time that this service was on the bubble. There was just one arrival and departure every day; very early in the morning and very late at night. And the high cost of fare didn't help either.