Flight Blog

 

The busy summer travel season is here and we want to encourage everyone flying this summer to arrive at the airport at least two hours before their flight is scheduled to leave.

We know, that sounds like an awful lot of time. But these days there’s a good chance you’ll need every bit of it. Take a look at the photo. It’s the line at the security check point yesterday afternoon, about 3:30. The folks at the end of the line had at least a 40 minute wait ahead of them. That’s a problem for some because they arrived at the airport less than an hour before departure.
 

 

The airline lobbying organization, Airlines for America, expects more than 257 million passengers will travel on U.S. airlines between June 1 and the end of August. It’s part of a continuing trend of robust growth in the airline business — in Springfield, for example, passenger numbers have grown 43% over the past five years. The end result is two-fold:

  1. Airport parking lots are near capacity. It often takes longer to find a parking spot than it used to (the airport will expand the lots in the near future).

  2. Wait times in lines have increased substantially; especially at the security check point and airline ticket counters. The long waits sometimes result in missed flights.

Here are some ways to avoid missing your flight —

  1. First and foremost: arrive at the airport at least two hours before your flight is scheduled to leave.

Speed up the line at the security checkpoint by:

  • Have your ID out and ready to show to screening personnel.

  • Take all food out of your carry-on bags and place in the conveyor bins. All food must be visually inspected by screening personnel.

  • You’re allowed to bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes in your carry-on bag and through the checkpoint. These are limited to travel-sized containers that are 3.4 ounces or less per item. Put the bag in the conveyor bins for inspection.

  • Take all electronic devices (phones, computers, tablets, etc.) out of carry-on bags and place them in the conveyor bins. They must be visually inspected.

Other ways to speed things up:

  • Avoid the line at the airline ticket counter. Unless you have to check a bag, you can bypass the ticket counter entirely by checking into your flight on your airline’s website, or mobile phone app.

  • Avoid departing during very busy times. Typically, the busiest times of day are in the morning; between 5:30 and 7:00, and between 10:30 and 12:30. The busiest days of the week are Wednesday and Saturday.

  • Apply for TSA PreCheck from the Transportation Security Administration. Flyers that are PreCheck approved do not need to remove shoes, laptops, liquids, belts and light jackets when going through the security checkpoint. More information here: https://www.tsa.gov/precheck

Bottom line:  the summer travel season is here and long lines will be common. Don’t miss your flight; arrive at the airport at least two hours before your flight is scheduled to leave!

 


Our airport’s “new” terminal is almost 10 years old. It opened May 6, 2009.

Depending on your point of view, it seems like yesterday, or ages ago. Either way, the building isn’t that “new” anymore and things have changed a lot in the past ten years.

That being said, it's a good time to begin looking backwards and forwards. Over the next five weeks we’ll share photos of the airport’s historic terminals, along with the current one.

You’ll notice that there’s a constant at the airport: change. As our first director, Lester Jones, put it, “There are two kinds of airports: obsolete and those under construction.”

Begin at 5000 West Kearney Street — the location of the airport’s first and second terminal buildings.

The first photo shows the airport's first terminal building in July 1945. That’s the month the airport opened. The white frame colonial style building was meant to be temporary — it served for 19 years! Notice how quickly it changed. Additions and annexes popped up, then a control tower, quickly followed by a radar tower.

The last photo foretells big changes. That’s Lester Jones in the middle, the airport’s first director. It’s November 1961. We’re not sure, but the trio appears to be looking at site plans for the second terminal. But wait, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. That will have to wait until the next post!
 

The airport's first terminal in July 1945. Click for a bigger version.

 

Wildlife control in 1951. The first terminal is in the background. Click image
to see bigger version.

 

The airport's first terminal seen here in the 1950s. Click for bigger version.

 

Troop movements in the 1950s. Click image to bigger version.

 

Radar equipment being installed in the 1950s. Click for bigger version.

 

The first terminal in 1958, seen from an arriving airliner. Click for bigger version.

 

 

The first terminal, 1958. Click for bigger version.

 

The first terminal seen here in 1958. Check out the 23 window VW bus! Click image for 
bigger version.

 

November 1961. The airport's first director in the middle, Lester Jones, views site plans.

 

 

 


 

The federal government shutdown hasn’t had a significant impact on security checkpoint wait times at our airport — not yet.

In the past few days, the folks who run airport checkpoints (TSA) report that about 7% of the national work force hasn’t shown up for work. Compare that to 3% last year. Presumably, the uptick is due to workers not showing up because they’re not being paid.

With twice as many workers absent it seems logical that checkpoint wait times should go up dramatically. But so far, they really haven’t. Why? Probably this: at most North American airports January is the slowest month of the year. When I say slow, I mean fewer people are flying.

 

 

At our airport January passengers numbers are less than half what they are during the busiest month of the year, which is June.

Bottom line: we haven’t seen checkpoint slowdowns yet because it’s the slowest time of the year.

This doesn’t mean long lines won’t eventually form; it’s a matter of time. How long will the shutdown last — will it run into the busy time of the year? How long will TSA employees show up without a pay check? How long can they afford to show up?

Think about all that if you’re flying during the shutdown. Take a long look at the TSA folks in the checkpoint. And thank them.

And think about the workers at the Federal Aviation Administration. They staff the control towers at airports; they direct air traffic in the sky.

And let’s not forget the National Weather Service. Its weather forecasts help guide pilots through weather’s uncertainty.

And finally …

If you know a federal worker make sure they know about a loan program announced on Monday by the Community Foundation of the Ozarks and the Multipli Credit Union. Federal workers who live or work in Christian, Dade, Dallas, Greene, Lawrence, Polk and Webster counties are eligible for the loan program.

Click here for more information about the loan program.
 


 

Sometime this week the 1-millionth passenger of the year will use the Springfield Airport. It’s the first time in history that that many people have used the airport is a single year. Civic leaders and airport customers gathered at the airport Thursday morning to celebrate.

While we don’t know with absolute certainty that the millionth passenger of the year was here today, we know we're pretty close. The math department at Missouri State University did a statistical analysis. They narrowed it down to this week; then we picked a day to celebrate. We want to thank the community for making this day possible!

 

Members of the media photograph the flight arriving with the millionth passenger.

 

A million passengers a year is a milestone not only for the airport, but for the community. It’s a symptom of a growing region, and a strong local economy — since 2013 our passenger numbers have grown 40%.

Nationwide, air passenger growth will increase about 5.5% in 2018. Here in Springfield we'll be almost double that rate. By year's end we expect the total passenger count to be in the neighborhood of 1,063,000. We want to thank everyone for flying Springfield!
 

Who is the millionth passenger? We don't know for sure, but it's likely one of these people getting off American Airlines 3887.

 


 

Please forgive what we’re about to do; we need to administer some tough love.


On this, the first day of the summer travel season, we’ve got advice for everyone who flies from Springfield: arrive at this airport AT LEAST TWO HOURS before your flight’s scheduled departure time. If you get here at the last possible minute, you may get burned.

We know, you don’t want to hear it!

 

 

Small airports, like Springfield's, have their perks. Short wait times are one of them. We’re all used to it. Got an early morning flight? You can sleep late, get to the airport 40 minutes before departure, whiz through security in less than 10 minutes, walk to the gate, board, and BOOM!

So here’s the deal — those days are over. The lines are longer and so are the wait times.

For years we’ve told people to arrive at least 90 minutes before departure. If something goes awry, like a broken piece of security screening equipment, you need that much time. Our advice is mostly ignored. And now we're asking you to get here even earlier — please don’t ignore us.

The first four months of the year were the busiest in airport history. In May, nearly all flights were at least 96% full, or oversold. So far this year passenger numbers are up 9.3%. We expect more than 1-million passengers this year — an all-time record. That’s good news, but with growth comes pain.

We're adjusting for the increase in passengers: airlines have increased staff. The Transportation Security Administration has added staff and adjusted schedules at the security checkpoint. But most passengers? They still show up at the last minute, fully expecting to wait less than ten minutes. They’re shocked when they discover a 20+ minute wait at the checkpoint. But that’s what you get when most people show up at the last minute.

Check out this portion of an email we got last week …

“… I approached the security line, which had literally 60 more people in it than I had ever seen.  Historically, I consider the line "long" if there are 10 people in it. I had not anticipated this many people in line and did not allow >30 minutes extra to stand in the security line - my flight was starting to board … I spent 30 minutes in the security line!!”

She missed her flight.

We sympathize, but we’re going to tell you what we told her: YOU NEED TO GET TO THE AIRPORT TWO HOURS BEFORE YOUR SCHEDULED DEPARTURE.

Everyone here at the airport always strives to make things more efficient, but staffing levels can’t be increased to keep wait times at less than 10 minutes. At many airports 20 to 30 minutes is the norm; 10 minutes is a luxury. Unfortunately, it’s a luxury we’ve grown accustomed to, and now we're outgrowing.

Thank you for reading this and please forgive the lecture.