The New York Times does a good job of summing-up the state of aviation in small town America...
"The country’s network of plentiful regional airports connecting to big hubs was largely built in an era of $30-a-barrel oil. But oil prices are now more than triple that, so maintaining commercial airline service to underperforming airports may be unsustainable."
To be clear, when the story talks about communities completely losing service, it's not talking about airports like Springfield. It's talking about smaller cities — Missouri cities like Joplin, Columbia, Cape Girardeau, Waynesville and Kirksville. Closer to us, there's Harrison, Arkansas. All the airports just mentioned have, or have had, Essential Air Service (EAS).
Our airport does, though, feel some of the pressures described in the story:
"Since airlines typically fly turboprops and 50-seat jets on the routes that connect outlying communities to big hubs, the higher cost of fuel and other expenses gets split among fewer passengers. Airlines are retiring these planes because they are unprofitable as oil prices climb."
For those of you wondering about the size of the airport profiled in the story, in Traverse City, Michigan... In 2009 it ranked 179 in terms of total passengers.
This will give you a feel for the size of the airports talked about here, and in the Times story. This shows each airport's ranking out of the nation's 538 airports with commercial air service in 2009:
- Springfield-Branson National, Springfield, Missouri: 124
- Cherry Capital Airport, Traverse City, Michigan: 179
- Columbia Regional, Columbia, Missouri: 306
- Waynesville-St. Robert Regional, Forney Field, Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri: 453. EAS.
- Joplin Regional, Joplin, Missouri: 481. EAS.
- Cape Girardeau Regional, Cape Girardeau Missouri: no service in 2009. Currently has EAS service.
- Kirksville Regional, Kirksville, Missouri: no service in 2009. Currently has EAS service.
- Boone County Regional, Harrison, Arkansas: no service in 2009. Currently has EAS service.