Flight Blog

May 06 2013 Air Fares Lower in Springfield? BY adminTAGS Airlines, Fares

 

In the past few weeks we’ve been asked several times if airlines are charging lower fares in Springfield due to the presence of Southwest Airlines at the Branson airport (the airline began service there in March).

The people asking have usually just checked out fares online and noticed what they perceive as a drop in Springfield fares. Well, they’re right — Springfield fares are lower. But here’s the thing: fares are always lower in the first quarter, and part of the second quarter.

Here’s what’s going on …

Airlines always lower fares the first four months of the year. It’s this way across the country; it is not unique to Springfield. Why lower fares? The first quarter is the slowest time of the year for air travel. To stimulate sales airlines always have first quarter fare sales.

So first quarter fare sales were part of the equation, but this year there’s another factor at work: the pending merger of American Airlines and US Airways.

The merger announcement came in early February. Within a couple of weeks American became very aggressive in its domestic and international fare sales. Before the merger I received maybe one American sale announcement a month via email. Now I get three or four a week.

This sudden aggressiveness by American has raised eyebrows in the aviation world. Some in the industry (myself included) think the airline is positioning itself for that time when the merger with US Airways becomes a done deal. The combined airline (which will keep the American name) will have three main competitors: Delta, Southwest, and United. By offering aggresive fares now the hope may be that the public will begin considering the merged American a low fare leader.

So here’s where we stand: air fares are always lower in the first four months of the year. And they may have been knocked a notch lower this year by American’s aggressive sales. So, bottom line, there’s no way to know if the presence of Southwest at Branson has lowered fares in the market. All that being said, it doesn’t mean that we won’t ever be able to tell — it’s just too early to tell.

Here’s why ...

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) gathers airline fare data every quarter. Publication of the data lags by two quarters. That means fare data for the first quarter won’t be available until the third quarter. We have to wait until then to know if Springfield fares were lower in the first quarter (when compared to the first quarter of the year before).

As for the question of Southwest’s impact on fares … I’d want to have four or five quarters worth of fare data before making a judgment. It would be great if Springfield fares do go down, but right now it’s just too early to know.

 

 

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Missouri Senator Clair McCaskill says she's going to introduce a bill that will force the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to allow the use of electronic devices on airplanes — from take off to landing. Read the rest of the story from Politico.

Get more background on the subject from this previous post.

 

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Couple of things to talk about today; let’s begin with new policy from the TSA…

Beginning April 25 you’ll be able to carry most pocket knives onboard a commercial airline flights (as long as the blade is less than 2.36 inches long). To that you can add billiard cues, toy bats, hockey sticks, golf clubs (limit two, yes "two"), and several other items. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) made the announcement yesterday. You can see the TSA announcement here.

image of knives

I suspect most fliers will welcome the changes — but not everyone. Apparently TSA didn't consult with one of its most important stakeholders: flight attendants. The Association of Professional Flight Attendants put out a blistering press release. Here’s part of what it says:

“The APFA and our colleagues at other Flight Attendant unions have enjoyed a close working relationship with TSA since its inception,” said APFA President Laura Glading. “That’s why I’m a little puzzled that such a momentous decision would be made without consulting us. In addition to being industry stakeholders, first responders, and September 11th victims, Flight Attendants are a resource. Nobody knows what it takes to keep passengers safe better than we do.” While the APFA welcomes the periodic review of items banned from being carried on the airplane, it categorically rejects a proposal to allow knives of any kind in the cabin. Additionally, today’s announcement includes relaxing restrictions of such large items as hockey sticks, golf clubs, and ski poles, a policy which could lead to a more stressful and potentially dangerous environment for air travelers and employees.

So what gives? Why change the rules? I think the TSA's thought process has evolved since 9/11. There's been the realization that if someone wants to take over an airplane with a little pocket knife, or a golf club, the passengers will put an end to it real quick. The same can't be said for bombs. TSA has all but said that it will spend more time screening for explosives.

Image of control tower

Let's move on to the Big Budget Battle in Washington: sequestration.

If the sequestration fight continues for long it will likely impact our airport’s control tower.

Earlier this week the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) told us that it would drop the overnight shift at the Springfield tower beginning October 1. That means the tower won’t be staffed between midnight and 5:00 am. That five hour period is the slowest part of the 24-hour day at our airport; on average there might be six takeoffs and landings. Those flights will still be able to fly but the pilots will have to coordinate all movement amongst themselves using a common radio frequency.

While we don’t like the reduction in service we’re thankful that budget cuts apparently won’t affect tower staffing during the hours when the commercial airlines land and take-off. Other Missouri airports aren’t so lucky…

The FAA says the control towers will close at the airports in Columbia, Jefferson City, Joplin, Branson, and St. Joseph. We’re hearing through backchannels that the closures will happen sooner, rather than later.

Three of those airports have commercial airservice. The closing of their control towers begs the question: will the airlines fly to an airport that doesn't have air traffic control?

Hopefully, no one will have to find out...

 

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Feb 11 2013 Up We Go! BY adminTAGS Airlines, How the Airport Works

 

Our 2012 passenger numbers are in along with those from competing airports. We've double and triple checked our math and the news is good: our passenger numbers were up in 2012 — the upward movement bucks national and regional trends.

 

Total passenger numbers were up 2.8%. Things weren't so hot at competing airports: Tulsa was down 2%. Kansas City was down 4%. St. Louis was up 1.1%. Northwest Arkansas was up .60%.

In today's airline climate an airport that finishes the year with growth is happy (to say the least). For the past 18 months the airlines have been cutting seat capacity and the number of flights in the air like crazy. They're doing it in reponse to the lingering affects of the recession and high jet fuel prices. The result is that many airports across the country have seen flat or negative passenger growth. The fact that our numbers were up is a reflection of Southwest Missouri’s strong economy.

The current unemployment rate in the Springfield metropolitan area is 5.4%. Compare that to the national rate of 7.8%. There’s an old rule of thumb in the airline industry — more employment means more people fly.

Passenger numbers weren’t the only thing going up at our airport...

Air freight shipments went up 6.6%. On average North American airports saw flat cargo numbers — up just half a percent. The airports in Kansas City and Tulsa were the only competing airports to see freight growth.

Check out the numbers....

 

AIRPORT TOTAL PASSENGERS 2012 PERCENT CHANGE FROM 2011
     
Kansas City (MCI) 9,896,821 - 4%
Northwest Arkansas (XNA) 1,109,917 .60%
St. Louis (STL) 12,668,726 1.1%
Springfield (SGF) 752,214 2.8%
Tulsa (TUL) 2,653,765 - 2%

 

Total Air Freight

 

AIRPORT AIR FREIGHT 2012 (lbs) PERCENT CHANGE FROM 2011
     
Kansas City (MCI) 189,872,059 2.91%
Northwest Arkansas (XNA) 55,333,000 - 6.7%
St. Louis (STL) 152,580,019 - 0.5%
Springfield (SGF) 28,830,104 6.6%
Tulsa (TUL) 56,372,000 1.1%

 

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Feb 07 2013 Wedding Bells? BY adminTAGS American, US Airways

 

Dallas media outlets report that a merger of American Airlines and US Airways is a done deal.

WFAA-TV and the Dallas Morning News both quote unnamed sources who say American's board of directors will meet on Monday to consider — and approve — a merger.

US Airways and American Airlines logo
 

Here in Southwest Missouri everyone wants to know what the apparent merger will mean for Springfield's American service — the airline flies  from here to Chicago O'Hare and Dallas (DFW).

We do not expect any service changes. Bottom line: the service to Chicago and Dallas will remain; we may gain service to Charlotte, which is a major US Airways hub.

Our avaiation analyst, Mike Boyd, recently wrote this to us:

"Effect on SGF: Some Potential Upside. A merger with US Airways would likely be a positive development for SGF, and at the very least neutral. If a merger is consummated, the name of the combined airline would remain American, with the corporate headquarters remaining in the Dallas region.

The current DFW hub would remain the major hub in the combined airline’s system. However, it is likely that some current Phoenix connecting capacity would shift to DFW. A larger DFW hub would be positive for SGF.

Another potential benefit for SGF would be the possibility of the addition of nonstop service to Charlotte (CLT). While CLT does overlap to some extent with the markets served by Delta’s ATL nonstops, the combination of domestic and international connectivity at CLT could be attractive to the combined airline.

Charlotte has strong connectivity not only to the southeast, but also to the northeast and mid-Atlantic region. Furthermore, European and South and Central American connectivity are also available via CLT."

Read a previous post about the possible merger — click here.

 

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