It’s good news in hard times—our airport is the only major airport in the region to finish 2009 with positive passenger growth. We posted a four percent increase in total passengers, when compared to the year before. The growth came despite an 11 percent cut in the airport’s 2009 flight schedule. Similar cuts occurred at airports across the country. As a whole, the nation’s airports experienced approximately a 6% decline in passengers.
The news gets better. Our aviation analyst, Michael Boyd, is forecasting that 2010 will bring us a 2.8% increase in passengers. He expects a 3.2% decline for the nation as a whole.
What gives? Why are we doing so well? There are several reasons; we can't point to any one thing:
- Low fares. In the fourth quarter of 2008 airlines began lowering fares in response to poor sales. The low fare trend continued through 2009.
- The airport’s new passenger terminal. The impact of the new terminal is hard to quantify, but there’s no doubt that the building’s “wow” factor, along with its ease of use have helped draw more customers to the airport.
- New terminal advertising and media attention in the first and second quarters raised public airport awareness of the airport.
- Allegiant Air growth. In 2009 the low fare airline grew its passenger numbers 42 percent in the Springfield-Branson market.
- The new airport south of Branson. When that airport had service to Dallas, American airlines, in Springfield, matched Branson’s fare. Bottom line: the Branson airport created airline competition.
- The relative strength of the Southwest Missouri economy, compared to other regions of the country.
There's more good news–we just got this data in today: the average fare from the Springfield-Branson airport was down 27.5% in the third quarter of 2009. That's compared to the same quarter in 2008. Here's the dollar translation: the average fare went from $288.18 to $208.72.
So, while our 2010 forecast is good, and fares are going down, be warned: things could go south in a hurry. The price of oil could spike. That would cause fares to go through the roof. The apparent economic recovery could sputter. A terrorist attack could cause demand to plummet.
So it’s good news for now, but these are uncertain times...