Flight Blog

June 30, 2014

 

This week a small part piece of airport history bites the proverbial dust.

 

When the red brick building comes tumbling down on Wednesday hardly anyone will notice — except, perhaps, a few airport rescue firefighters. Some of them spent many a long shift in that building — it’s the old airport firehouse.

 

Built sometime in the late 1960’s (and added on to in the 70s) it was a huge step up from the old barrel shaped building it replaced. But as with all things in the airport business is soon became functionally obsolete — by the time it was vacated in 2009 the airport’s newest fire truck wouldn’t even fit through the bay doors. For the past five years it’s collected dust, birds, plus a few pieces of old equipment.
 

The lot occupied by the firehouse will soon be part of the airport’s newest expansion. It’s a $5.6 million project that will redevelop and expand the general aviation complex by making 12 acres ready for new airplane hangars. The general aviation complex (GA for short) is that part of the airport which caters to business/corporate aircraft.

 

This fall, when the expansion project is done, the only trace of the firehouse will be an old emergency alarm siren. It’s one of two sirens at the airport. They sound the alarm whenever an aircraft declares an emergency. The old beast (pictured left) came off the firehouse roof last week — it looks like something out of a 1950s civil defense film. Unlike the old firehouse it still works great — just have to figure out a new place to put it ...
 

Posted in: Airports, History, How the Airport Works | 0 Comment(s) ››

June 12, 2014

 

Passenger numbers at the Springfield Airport are up — way up.

 

In May the total number of passengers using the airport was up 15 percent. That’s the best monthly increase since before the Great Recession.

 

For the first five months of the year the number of passengers using the airport was up 11.7 percent —   it’s only the second time since the turn of the century that Springfield has seen a double digit increase during the five month period. The first time was in 2005 when Allegiant and Delta started Springfield service.

 

The increase in passengers is a classic sign of an improving local economy. The airlines see this demand and they’re responding by bringing more seats to the market. Take a look at the numbers:

 

TOTAL AVAILABLE SEATS IN SPRINGFIELD - MAY 2014

 

  • Allegiant Air + 35.9%
  • American Airlines + 11.1%
  • Delta Air Lines + 3%
  • United Airlines + 3.6%

There are two ways for an airline to bring more seats to Springfield. They can bring more flights — those are up nearly 5 percent for the year — or they can bring bigger airplanes. Allegiant has started occasional use of Boeing 757s in Springfield. Delta begins Boeing 717 service here on September 2.

 
717s will serve Delta’s Springfield-Atlanta route. The airline currently has five daily Atlanta flights on 50-seat regional jets. In September a 717 will serve one of those flights. That means four flights a day on 50-seat planes, and one on a 717, which has 110 seats.
 
The addition of a 717 adds more seats per day to Atlanta. That’s important because the 50-seaters are frequently sold-out. More seats per day means fewer customers turned away.
 
Bigger planes are definitely in Springfield’s future — not just due to local demand but because airlines are starting to phase out 50-seat jets; they’re expensive to maintain and they’re not fuel efficient.
 

PERCENT CHANGE TOTAL PASSENGER

NUMBERS JAN - MAY 2014

 

  • January + 9.2%
  • February + 13.1%
  • March + 9.8%
  • April + 11.4%
  • May + 15%
TOTAL PASSENGERS COMPARISON
 
  • May 2013: 65,611 total passengers
  • May 2014: 75,452 total passengers
  • Jan - May 2013: 292,967 total passengers
  • Jan - May 2014: 327,355 total passengers

 

SCHEDULED AIRLINE FLIGHTS

 

  • Jan - May 2013: 3,105
  • Jan - May 2014: 3,253

 

Posted in: Airlines, Airports, How the Airport Works | 0 Comment(s) ››

May 22, 2014

 

 

Lots of good news to share today ... let's begin with the Boeing 717.

 

Delta Air Lines begins Boeing 717 service here on September 2. The plane will serve the Springfield-Atlanta route. Right now we have five daily Atlanta flights on 50-seat regional jets. In September a 717 will serve one of those flights. That means four Atlanta flights a day on 50-seaters, and one on a 717, which has 110 seats.

 

This is good news for a couple of reasons: 1) if you hate the cramped confines of 50-seaters you now have a choice, and 2) the addition of this bigger airplane adds more seats per day to Atlanta. This is a big deal because the 50-seaters are frequently sold-out. More seats per day means fewer customers turned away.

 

The 717 has 110 seats. 12 of those are first class. 15 are what Delta calls Economy Comfort. 83 are economy class. The planes have wi-fi, and 110v AC and USB in-seat power. Check out the floor plan here.

 

Delta is already selling Springfield-Atlanta 717 flights on its website.

 

FARES
 

Yes, you read that headline right. Airlines are charging less at the Springfield airport. We don’t know exactly why and they’re not down a lot, but they are down. It almost looks like a trend — check it out:

 

  • At the end of the 2nd Quarter, 2013, airline fares were down .09 percent, year over year.
  • At the end of the 3rd Quarter, 2013, airline fares were down 2.5 percent, year over year.
  • At the end of the 4th Quarter, 2013, airline fares were down 3.4 percent, year over year.

Here’s how it looks in dollars and cents. Note the average national fare is going up, while fares here are going down:

 

2012Q4 Average One-Way Net Fare
 
2013Q4 Average One-Way Net Fare
  • Springfield average: $220.72
  • U.S. average: $191.23
  • Springfield average: $213.81
  • U.S. average: $196.31
Net fare excludes taxes and fees; it's the amount the airline actually sees.  
   

This decline is likely the result of the improved financial health of the domestic airlines — specifically Delta and American. As we’ve noted here before, American has been 'fare aggressive' since the announcement of its merger with US Airways. And Delta, which is reaping the financial benefits of its merger with Continental, is being aggressive as well.

 

Bottom line: the dip in fares in likely due to good old fashioned competition. We won’t have fare data for the 1st Quarter of this year until July or August. Here's hoping we've got a trend in the making.

 

PASSENGER NUMBERS UP

 

Speaking of possible trends …

 

So far this year total airline passenger numbers are up 10.8 percent in Springfield. It’s only the second time since the turn of the century that Springfield has seen a double digit increase during the first four months of the year (the first time was in 2005 when Allegiant started service here).

 

Here’s how it breaks down:

 

 

  • January: + 9.2%
  • February: + 13.1%
  • March: + 9.8%
  • April: + 11.4%
These percentage increases compare this year’s months to last year’s months. Example: this year’s January passenger numbers are up 9.2% compared to the same month last year.

 

There’s little doubt that these growth numbers are directly attributable to two things: 1) the vastly improved health of the airline industry, and 2) the improvements in the local and national economies since the end of the Great Recession.

 

Four years ago it seemed like most domestic airlines were on life-support. Now they’re making money (with the exception of United). Why? The industry publication Airline Weekly calls it the “Three-C” reforms:

 

  • Capacity discipline: in 2006 airlines began doing something they’d really never done before: cutting the number of seats they had in the air; this saved money. In 2011 they began cutting like crazy. That year capacity was cut a whopping 22 percent at this airport.
  • Consolidation: Delta merged with Northwest. United merged with Continental. American merged with US Airways … the list goes on. At the turn of the century there were at least a dozen networked airlines with daily schedules. Today there are four: American, Delta, United, and Southwest.
  • Charging for everything: Customers don’t like fees (such as bag fees) but here’s the hard, cold reality: fee revenue is one of the main reasons airlines are making any money at all.

So, the airlines are doing better financially. That’s given them the ability to be more strategic. Here’s what I mean by that ...

 

Before 2006 (when capacity discipline began) airline business plans called for capacity growth — they grew their networks (the places they flew) for growth’s sake. Never mind that that kind of growth strategy didn’t necessarily make more money.

 

Today airlines only fly where they'll make money. They will increase capacity in certain markets (where they know they can make more money), but they are not making significant increases to their overall networks. And this leads us to the Southwest Missouri economy …

 

As a whole, the airlines serving Springfield are growing capacity here (i.e. the addition of 717s) because there's money to be made — they're taking airplanes from other cities and putting them here. That’s one of the main reasons our passenger numbers are up over ten percent for the year. It’s a sign that the local economy is doing much better, and that demand for air travel is high. The proof is in the numbers:

 
Total Available Seats in Springfield January - April, 2014

 

  • Allegiant: + 17.6%
  • American: + 7.4%
  • Delta: + 1.9%
  • United: - 2%

If history is a guide the growth in capacity and passengers will moderate in the second half of the year.

 

As for fares ... let's hope they continue downward. That would be music to everyone's ears.

 

 

Posted in: Airlines, Delta, Fares | 0 Comment(s) ››

March 11, 2014

 

Cory Collins sent us this query via facebook:

 

“Can I possibly read this correctly? Is the plan to actually spend over $5.4 million on preparing the site (already hard surfaced) for SIX (6) hangars?"

 

Cory is referring to a news story in Monday’s Springfield News-Leader about the airport’s plan to redevelop land for the construction of eight general aviation (GA) hangars. We currently have a shortage of GA hangars and plan to spend about $5.6 million to make land development ready for new hangar construction.

 

Cory …. please take a look at the image below:

What you see is an aerial view of the old airport terminal complex located at the end of West Kearney Street.

 

•    The area where the work will generally take place is outlined in yellow. This area is about 12 acres.

 

•    #1 is the location of an old airport fire station. The redevelopment work includes tearing the fire station down.

 

•    #2 is part of the old long term parking lot for the old terminal building. This part of the lot, along with the road you see skirting the lot on the right, will be torn out.

 

•    #3 is a parking lot that is no longer used. It will be torn out. Since the parking lot is several feet higher than the taxiways and runway, several thousand yards of dirt/rock underneath the lot will also have to be removed.

 

•    #4 is a hangar that will remain.

 

•    #5 is part of the old short term parking lot for the old terminal building. It will be torn out.

 

•    The redevelopment work will include removing old underground utilities: gas, water and electric.

 

•    The work will include new access roads.

 

•    The work will include new concrete aprons for aircraft.

 

This list could go on and on, but you get the idea — there’s a lot more to preparing the site than meets the eye.

 

The work had to go out to bid and we accepted the low bid. Additionally, we did an independent cost analysis to be sure the cost was reasonable.

 

Please let us know if you have more questions.

 

March 11, 2014

 

--------------------------------------------------------

 

Cory has responded to our explanation:

 

"Thanks for your response - I do appreciate your time. First, I would like to clarify that I am in full support of adding hangars to KSGF. With that said, being one of those Fifty (50) people that have been waiting on a list for hangar space for years (literally) I guess I am just disappointed that $5.4 Million Dollars will only "pave the way" for Eight (8) (News-Leader said 6) "jet" hangars that apparently will be constructed at additional cost and owned (or leased?) by someone other than the airport. Erect A Tube? I am now clear that it is not in the plans, but when the news of potential new hangars was released I was hopeful it would help address the need and demand for businesses and plane owners with light aircraft as well. Thanks again for your direct and timely response."

 

Thanks Cory. Point taken about owners of light aircraft. Here's some more explanation ...

 

You're right — this new development will address the demand for corporate aircraft hangars. Here's why, along with some details about how the whole thing works ...

 

There are two kinds of GA hangars at the airport: those owned by the airport, and those owned by corporations. The airport owned hangars are those small t-hangars that are rented to individuals with light aircraft. The corporate owned hangars generally house corporate jets. And here's a key point — these hangars were built by corporations — not the airport.

 

The new development project will make ground ready for new corporate hangars. Corporations will lease lots from the airport and then build the hangars. At the end of the lease (generally 30-years) the hangar becomes the property of the airport. The reason it works this way is pure economics. It wouldn't be financially feasible for the airport to build these large hangars — they're simply too expensive — and it would take too long for the airport to get it's money back. The grant money from the state aviation trust fund makes it possible for the airport to afford the cost of making ground "hangar ready."

 

The need for more t-hangars is on our radar. Hopefully, we can make it happen in the next few years. We've even identified the ground where they'll probably go (at the north end of the GA complex, near the fuel farm).

 

The challenge is coming up with the money to build them. We're hoping to get grant money to do it — and here's why ...

 

Let's suppose, for the sake of conversation, that the airport just decided to pay for new t-hangars on its own dime. The cost of construction would be so high that we'd have to charge a very steep monthly rental fee in order to pay for them — so high that every small aircraft owner on the field would become irate.

 

Thanks for reading this long-winded response ... hope it makes sense!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in: How the Airport Works | 0 Comment(s) ››

February 20, 2014

January can be a cruel month … but not this time.

 

Our airport’s total passenger numbers for January were up 9.2 percent when compared to the same month last year. That’s the biggest January increase since 2006.

 

It’s not just January that’s often cruel. You can add February and March to the list — it’s the first quarter blues — that time of the year when general economic activity slows WAY down. In the airline industry it’s the time when passenger numbers plunge and airlines have big fare sales to stimulate demand.  That’s why a January increase of nine percent gets our attention …

 

So what gives … why such a big increase?

 

The short answer is we don’t exactly know. The long answer is more complicated …

 

Take a look at the graph. What you see are total passengers numbers, at our airport, for every year this century. It’s pretty easy to read …

The plunge in 2001 was due to the September 11 terrorist attacks. The numbers go up as the industry recovers.

 

2005 was our peak — it’s the year Allegiant started service here and Delta added service to three destinations. The Mid Two Thousands were go-go days for the airlines.

 

As you follow the graph you’ll see the recession kick in; numbers swing wildly and then plunge in 2011. That’s when airlines cut capacity (number of available airplane seats) at airports nationwide. They did so in response to the recession and high fuel prices. But then things start to settle down … the cuts in service for Springfield were essentially over with by the end of 2011.

 

In 2012 and 2013 our total passenger numbers were up slightly: 2.8% in 2012, and up .05% in 2013.

 

The takeaway from the graph is that the industry has stabilized and is slowly improving.

 

So here we are in 2014 with the best January since 2006. Are we about to have another boom year? Probably not — at least not on the scale of 2005 - 2007. Given the nature of the airline business February could end up with flat or negative passenger numbers. That being said, I think there are several reasons for optimism:

 

  • Airport passengers are often a leading economic indicator for the general state of the economy. As the economy improves more people fly. Unemployment and job growth numbers from the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce show a much improving local economy:  in December the Springfield metro area reported an unemployment rate of 4.6%. A year ago it was 5.4%. Bottom line: as the local economy grows airport passenger numbers grow.
     
  • The airline turmoil of the past few years is over; airlines are now making a profit. Fuel prices have been stable for three years. With costs under control airlines seem a bit more willing to add capacity is some markets — but only those markets where they think they’ll make money.
     
  • Our airport saw a 3.7% increase in capacity in January. That’s the first increase since July of last year and the second biggest increase since February 2012. Bottom line: since the airlines are adding capacity here they must have some degree of confidence that our air market is strong.

So yes, things are looking up. Here’s hoping that that the rest of the year is as good as January!

 

Posted in: Airlines, Airports, How the Airport Works | 0 Comment(s) ››

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