Flight Blog


Jim wants to know what our take is on the Branson airport and how full the Allegiant flights are from this airport.


Let’s begin with the second question. Overall, Allegiant flights to and from this airport average over 90% full. That's very, very good.


On Jim’s question about the Branson airport--he wants to know if we think it will take passengers away from this airport? Ultimately, the question becomes, will the need for a new terminal exist once the Branson airport is complete?


The short answer to the question is yes. We firmly believe the Springfield-Branson airport (SGF) will need a new terminal even if the Branson airport is completed. SGF is the airport of record in the region. It has established air service and moves more than 800,000 people a year via direct service to 12 destinations. The Branson traffic at SGF is a small and undetermined percentage of total passenger numbers.  On to the long answer...


Take a step back and think about this purely from a business perspective. The Branson airport has been talked about for years and has been on again, off again for years. Construction is underway, paid for with over a hundred million dollars worth of high risk bonds, but has not been finished. An airline has yet to commit. Should SGF be expected to shape its business plan around something that speculative? Would that be the responsible thing to do--to put a needed terminal on hold because of something that might happen?


The Branson project faces several challenges, the least of which is the volatility of the commercial airline business. Since 9/11 the airlines have been running by the skin of their teeth. Profit margins are slim. Bankruptcy is common. High fuel prices and labor unrest are constant worries. The expansion of routes, or the addition of new airplanes, is done with extreme caution. Given this business climate, getting an airline to jump into an unproven market would be a tough nut to crack. And before airlines could be persuaded to jump in (on the scale predicted by Branson airport developers), there would have to be hundreds of thousands of people across the country willing to pay air fare to Branson.


Don’t get me wrong. It is not the intent of anyone associated with SGF to cast dispersions on the effort. If the Branson airport wasn’t being raised as a reason not to build a new SGF terminal, and thus eliminate the need for a new access road from Highway 266, we wouldn’t even consider it appropriate to comment. We wish the Branson project good luck and best wishes. If the developers can pull it off, they deserve our applause.


The Friday edition of the Springfield paper printed a letter to the editor from a gentleman who believes the new midfield terminal is not needed.


His point-of-view is understandable. At first blush the business of running an airport is simple and straight forward. But beneath the surface it’s anything but...


The current terminal was built in 1964 and has had at least five significant additions. Over the years it has served well, but has reached its limits—especially in its abilities to handle security, plane parking and passenger numbers.


Expanding the terminal was given lots of thought, but a study concluded that it would actually be cheaper to build a new one. Why? The current facility is landlocked. Major industry sits to the east. Taxiways and runways sit to the west. Expanding to the south and north would rob the private aviation community of space and would end up making the terminal longer (from north to south) and less functional.


These are difficult concepts to explain—not because they can’t be understood, but because they are out of sight and unknown to airport customers. It helps to be here, behind the scenes, standing on the apron, witnessing aircraft operations at six in the morning, to see that the terminal is not up to the task. You have to stand in the baggage screening rooms, watching screeners do their vital work in cramped conditions, while the sheer volume of baggage grows from year to year. You have to witness our staggering passenger growth and know that the capacity of the current terminal is about a million people a year—a number we’ll probably reach within five years. The new terminal will be done just in time.


In this business you have to look to the future and act now. If you don’t, you’ll be criticized later for doing nothing.


Besides providing a great airport, one of the best things we can do for our customers is provide information. The goal of the blog is to provide answers and transparency. So please, ask away. We'll do our best provide straight and meaningful answers.

Aug 08 2007 Where is Southwest Airlines? BY sgf-adminTAGS Southwest


Karen and Aaron want to know about Southwest Airlines.


Karen says, "What was the law that kept Southwest from flying into Springfield. Wasn't that recently overruled, or didn't a new law go into effect that would allow it?"


Karen... You're thinking about the Wright Amendment. I most definitely am not an expert on this bit of airline/airport legislation. But in a nutshell: when the amendment was in full force it forbid Southwest Airlines from flying into any state that didn't touch Texas (the airline is based at Dallas Love Field).


In 2005 the law was amended to allow flights to Missouri.


Aaron says...Why doesn't Southwest fly into Springfield-Branson?


I get this question all the time, so forgive me for the well rehearsed response!


Southwest is a tough nut to crack for smaller markets like Springfield. Why? Because the business model won't allow for service into a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) of less than a million people. The population of the Springfield MSA is 400,000. I'd guess that Southwest would want to have five flights a day, with the goal of filling a 130 seat aircraft to at least 80% capacity.  And it would only fly to one place. This is a key point... Southwest doesn't fly from point A to B or C, and so forth. It flys from point A to point B. And  in our case, where would point B be? It would almost certainly be Dallas Love Field.


So here's the down and dirty: we don't have the customer base to support an airline like Southwest, Airtran, JetBlue etc. In 10 to 15 years we might have the passenger numbers, but don't count on it.


I know what you're thinking--what about Allegiant? It's a low cost airline and it serves Springfield-Branson! Allegiant is a completely different animal. It operates on a much, much smaller scale than Southwest and its business model is different. It serves small market airports (like us) with service to vacation destinations only. And at the beginning of this year it owned only about 22 airplanes. I'm sure we'll be talking about this subject a lot more!


Steve asked if the new terminal will mean new airlines at SGF?


No. When talking to a prospective airline, a new terminal is a nice card to have on the table, but I can't  foresee that it would ever be the deciding factor in convincing an airline to enter a market.


In the final analysis, here's what airlines care about: how many seats they can fill in the market.


On Steve's point about needing additional hubs... This airport has reached a point in it's growth where adding daily service to new hubs is very problematic. We have service to six of the top 10 hubs in the country:


  • #1 Atlanta
  • #2 Chicago O'Hare
  • #4 Dallas/Ft. Worth
  • #5 Las Vegas
  • #6 Denver
  • #10 Minneapolis

After that, here's how our destinations rank:


  • #11 Detroit
  • #22 Cincinnati
  • #32 St. Louis
  • #34 Memphis
  • #92 Orlando/SFB
  • #172 St. Petersburg/Tampa

Now you and I can look at this list and come with lots of other places we'd like to fly. But here's how the airlines see it. They look at the list and say things like, "You've already got connectivity to the upper east coast--just fly to Detroit, Memphis or Cincinnati and catch a connecting flight." Or, "Just fly to MSP, Denver or DFW to connect to points west, you don't have enough bodies to justify the service between SGF and wherever."  


And then there's the regional jet issue... Since 9/11, the airlines have primarily flown regional jets (RJs) into small market airports like SGF. It's an effort to save money.  Most RJs have fifty seats; a few have 70. The bigger jets have generally moved to transcontinental and overseas flights (much more profitable). So here's the bottom line on RJ's: they have limited seating and the airlines generally won't fly them on hauls that are longer than 500 or 600 miles. The haul from SGF to Newark and Phoenix are about 1000 miles a piece.

Aug 06 2007 Welcome! BY sgf-adminTAGS General


At last, it's done--the Springfield-Branson National Airport has a new web site. To all of you--the customers of the airport--I apologize. This site is long overdue.

One of our new web features is this blog. It's purpose is straight forward: we want to share information with you and we want to hear what you have to say. I'll pass on news about the airlines and fares that could affect you. Got a question? Ask it. I'll give a straight answer. There's only one ground rule: civil conversation.

On to the news at hand...

One of this airport's best kept secrets is Allegiant Air. It's a niche airline providing one thing: low cost fares between vacations destinations and small markets like Springfield-Branson. The airline provides service from this airport to Las Vegas, Orlando and St. Petersburg. Fares typically run about $200 per person round-trip. That's the old news, here's the new: Allegiant says it plans to add two more destination cities--Phoenix and Ft. Lauderdale. What the airline hasn't said is whether our airport will get service to these new cities.

Allegiant says it will announce what cities will get the new destinations by September 16.

Update on Monday, August 6, 2007 at 12:12PM by  Kent

Will Allegiant add flights to Tampa/St. Petersburg?  As in all decisions of this sort, it's up to the airline. If Allegiant feels that its two current weeky flights are doing well, and if the airline feels there's enough demand to fill another 150 seat airplane, and if the airline planners can fit the flight (s) into their weekly rotation, then, yes, Allegiant might add flights to Tampa. This is a long-winded way of saying that it's a complicated decision making process the airline goes through. And I've only touched on three of the factors that go into the process. Hate to give you such a wishy-washy response, but that's the way it works...

Update on Monday, August 6, 2007 at 12:28PM by  Kent

Does United still fly into SGF? Yes. The airline flies from SGF to Denver and Chicago O'Hare seven days a week. There are nine United flights a day, five to Chicago and four to Denver. Thanks Greg.