Freight. Buying AirTran. Branson Charters.

 

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.

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