The number of people using our airport leaped 17 percent in May, compared to the same month last year. The increase comes after 15 consecutive months of numbers that were negative or flat. It was the tenth busiest month in the airport’s history. To do that, in the middle of a recession, is amazing.
In May of last year 69,368 people used the airport. The May 2009 number: 81,496. Passenger numbers were up despite the fact that the airlines have cut the number of flights in Springfield by eight percent. Springfield’s growth bucks the current national trend, with many airports reporting negative May numbers. There are several things going on here. The number one factor has to be low fares. For the past several months the airlines have been trying to fill the planes by cutting prices. We’ve talked to numerous people who are flying from Springfield to Europe for less that $500 roundtrip. Others have found roundtrip fare to New York City for less than $250…and roundtrip to Seattle for $210.
Other factors that play into the increase likely include the opening of the airport’s new terminal on May 6, along with the airport advertising campaign that led up to the terminal’s grand opening. In April and early May the Springfield media market was saturated with airport advertising and airport media coverage. It's likely that a lot of people decided to check us out and they discovered that they could afford to fly from Springfield.
The economic strength of the Springfield metro area also plays a role. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says the Springfield metro unemployment rate dropped 1.4 percent in April, to stand at 7 percent. That compares to a national unemployment rate of 8.6 percent. In short, the Springfield area economy is better off than many regional economies—customers are still spending. The question now: will our numbers continue to trend up? It might because this up-tick began in March—that’s when we went from double digit negative numbers to down just one percent. Then in April our numbers were flat. Now we’re up 17 percent. That’s three months of upward movement.
Hope and pray that the price of oil starts to go back down...that's a worry right now. If oil prices get much higher, the low fares could go away in a heartbeat...