Catch As Catch Can

Sep 24 2012 Catch As Catch Can BY admin TAGS AirlinesAirports

I've got a bunch of tid-bits to share, none of which really deserve their own posting. Here they are, in no particular order...

I spent part of last week in Dallas at the International Aviation Forecast Summit. It's an annual event that includes airlines, airports, and aircraft manufacturers. Here are a few of the summit's insights:

REGIONAL JETS

Regional jets (RJs) are on the way out and the trend is accerlerating. The expectation that most RJs will be retired is not new news. What is new, however, is the rate at which they'll disappear. Gary Chase, a senior vice president at Delta Airlines, told the summit audience that his airline will retire 200 RJs by 2015.

RJs are those small jets (generally 50-seats or less) that many of you love to hate — they provide most of the service at our airport. The airlines started using them several years ago because they are (or were) cheaper to operate than bigger jets (such as MD-80s or 737s). The rising cost of jet fuel has changed all that — there just aren't enough seats to sell on an RJ to pay for the fuel. Bottom line: before long we'll see bigger jets serving Springfield.

DOMESTIC AIRLINE GROWTH (NOT)

Airlines are no longer growing their route systems for growth's sake. Historically, airline system expansion was basically directly tied to the growth of the national economy. As the economy grew, the airlines grew. Several factors have conspired to change that — mainly rising fuel costs, and the world-wide recession.

So what's replaced "growth for growth's sake?" For the first time in history airline systems are shrinking. Airlines have stopped flying to places where the economic margins are low. They're only flying to places where they know they can make money. Bottom line: airline growth will be very slow in the foreseeable future — less than two percent growth a year. Some small cities will lose air service all together.

FARES

No one at the summit thinks air fares will go down — only up. That's depressing news but its economic reality. There's really only one thing that could drive fares down: lower fuel prices. And no one expects that to happen...

Moving on to other tid-bits...

There's good news for the many Springfield fliers who make connections at Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport (DFW). That airport now has free Wi-Fi. Judging by the way it worked last week, I'd say the system is still being tweaked. No matter — a scratchy Wi-Fi signal was preferable to paying ten bucks! No doubt the system will get better.

Saving the best news for last...

Our total passenger numbers at SGF are still up for the year. We finished August up 4.5% year-to-date. The number of scheduled airline flights, January - August was down -0.9%.

To put these numbers in perspective, consider our performance last year: the number of airline flights was down 16% and total passengers were down 8.1%. So we're doing much better. Keeping our fingers crossed...
 

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