Flight Blog


Lots of good news to share today ... let's begin with the Boeing 717.

Delta Air Lines begins Boeing 717 service here on September 2. The plane will serve the Springfield-Atlanta route. Right now we have five daily Atlanta flights on 50-seat regional jets. In September a 717 will serve one of those flights. That means four Atlanta flights a day on 50-seaters, and one on a 717, which has 110 seats.

This is good news for a couple of reasons: 1) if you hate the cramped confines of 50-seaters you now have a choice, and 2) the addition of this bigger airplane adds more seats per day to Atlanta. This is a big deal because the 50-seaters are frequently sold-out. More seats per day means fewer customers turned away.

The 717 has 110 seats. 12 of those are first class. 15 are what Delta calls Economy Comfort. 83 are economy class. The planes have wi-fi, and 110v AC and USB in-seat power. Check out the floor plan here.

Delta is already selling Springfield-Atlanta 717 flights on its website.


Yes, you read that headline right. Airlines are charging less at the Springfield airport. We don’t know exactly why and they’re not down a lot, but they are down. It almost looks like a trend — check it out:

  • At the end of the 2nd Quarter, 2013, airline fares were down .09 percent, year over year.
  • At the end of the 3rd Quarter, 2013, airline fares were down 2.5 percent, year over year.
  • At the end of the 4th Quarter, 2013, airline fares were down 3.4 percent, year over year.

Here’s how it looks in dollars and cents. Note the average national fare is going up, while fares here are going down:


2012Q4 Average One-Way Net Fare
2013Q4 Average One-Way Net Fare
  • Springfield average: $220.72
  • U.S. average: $191.23
  • Springfield average: $213.81
  • U.S. average: $196.31

Net fare excludes taxes and fees; it's the amount the airline actually sees.


This decline is likely the result of the improved financial health of the domestic airlines — specifically Delta and American. As we’ve noted here before, American has been 'fare aggressive' since the announcement of its merger with US Airways. And Delta, which is reaping the financial benefits of its merger with Continental, is being aggressive as well.

Bottom line: the dip in fares in likely due to good old fashioned competition. We won’t have fare data for the 1st Quarter of this year until July or August. Here's hoping we've got a trend in the making.



Speaking of possible trends …

So far this year total airline passenger numbers are up 10.8 percent in Springfield. It’s only the second time since the turn of the century that Springfield has seen a double digit increase during the first four months of the year (the first time was in 2005 when Allegiant started service here).

Here’s how it breaks down:


  • January: + 9.2%
  • February: + 13.1%
  • March: + 9.8%
  • April: + 11.4%
These percentage increases compare this year’s months to last year’s months. Example: this year’s January passenger numbers are up 9.2% compared to the same month last year.


There’s little doubt that these growth numbers are directly attributable to two things: 1) the vastly improved health of the airline industry, and 2) the improvements in the local and national economies since the end of the Great Recession.

Four years ago it seemed like most domestic airlines were on life-support. Now they’re making money (with the exception of United). Why? The industry publication Airline Weekly calls it the “Three-C” reforms:

  • Capacity discipline: in 2006 airlines began doing something they’d really never done before: cutting the number of seats they had in the air; this saved money. In 2011 they began cutting like crazy. That year capacity was cut a whopping 22 percent at this airport.
  • Consolidation: Delta merged with Northwest. United merged with Continental. American merged with US Airways … the list goes on. At the turn of the century there were at least a dozen networked airlines with daily schedules. Today there are four: American, Delta, United, and Southwest.
  • Charging for everything: Customers don’t like fees (such as bag fees) but here’s the hard, cold reality: fee revenue is one of the main reasons airlines are making any money at all.

So, the airlines are doing better financially. That’s given them the ability to be more strategic. Here’s what I mean by that ...

Before 2006 (when capacity discipline began) airline business plans called for capacity growth — they grew their networks (the places they flew) for growth’s sake. Never mind that that kind of growth strategy didn’t necessarily make more money.

Today airlines only fly where they'll make money. They will increase capacity in certain markets (where they know they can make more money), but they are not making significant increases to their overall networks. And this leads us to the Southwest Missouri economy …

As a whole, the airlines serving Springfield are growing capacity here (i.e. the addition of 717s) because there's money to be made — they're taking airplanes from other cities and putting them here. That’s one of the main reasons our passenger numbers are up over ten percent for the year. It’s a sign that the local economy is doing much better, and that demand for air travel is high. The proof is in the numbers:

Total Available Seats in Springfield January - April, 2014

  • Allegiant: + 17.6%
  • American: + 7.4%
  • Delta: + 1.9%
  • United: - 2%

If history is a guide the growth in capacity and passengers will moderate in the second half of the year.

As for fares ... let's hope they continue downward. That would be music to everyone's ears.



Cory Collins sent us this query via facebook:

“Can I possibly read this correctly? Is the plan to actually spend over $5.4 million on preparing the site (already hard surfaced) for SIX (6) hangars?"

Cory is referring to a news story in Monday’s Springfield News-Leader about the airport’s plan to redevelop land for the construction of eight general aviation (GA) hangars. We currently have a shortage of GA hangars and plan to spend about $5.6 million to make land development ready for new hangar construction.

Cory …. please take a look at the image below:

What you see is an aerial view of the old airport terminal complex located at the end of West Kearney Street.

•    The area where the work will generally take place is outlined in yellow. This area is about 12 acres.

•    #1 is the location of an old airport fire station. The redevelopment work includes tearing the fire station down.

•    #2 is part of the old long term parking lot for the old terminal building. This part of the lot, along with the road you see skirting the lot on the right, will be torn out.

•    #3 is a parking lot that is no longer used. It will be torn out. Since the parking lot is several feet higher than the taxiways and runway, several thousand yards of dirt/rock underneath the lot will also have to be removed.

•    #4 is a hangar that will remain.

•    #5 is part of the old short term parking lot for the old terminal building. It will be torn out.

•    The redevelopment work will include removing old underground utilities: gas, water and electric.

•    The work will include new access roads.

•    The work will include new concrete aprons for aircraft.

This list could go on and on, but you get the idea — there’s a lot more to preparing the site than meets the eye.

The work had to go out to bid and we accepted the low bid. Additionally, we did an independent cost analysis to be sure the cost was reasonable.

Please let us know if you have more questions.

March 11, 2014


Cory has responded to our explanation:

"Thanks for your response - I do appreciate your time. First, I would like to clarify that I am in full support of adding hangars to KSGF. With that said, being one of those Fifty (50) people that have been waiting on a list for hangar space for years (literally) I guess I am just disappointed that $5.4 Million Dollars will only "pave the way" for Eight (8) (News-Leader said 6) "jet" hangars that apparently will be constructed at additional cost and owned (or leased?) by someone other than the airport. Erect A Tube? I am now clear that it is not in the plans, but when the news of potential new hangars was released I was hopeful it would help address the need and demand for businesses and plane owners with light aircraft as well. Thanks again for your direct and timely response."

Thanks Cory. Point taken about owners of light aircraft. Here's some more explanation ...

You're right — this new development will address the demand for corporate aircraft hangars. Here's why, along with some details about how the whole thing works ...

There are two kinds of GA hangars at the airport: those owned by the airport, and those owned by corporations. The airport owned hangars are those small t-hangars that are rented to individuals with light aircraft. The corporate owned hangars generally house corporate jets. And here's a key point — these hangars were built by corporations — not the airport.

The new development project will make ground ready for new corporate hangars. Corporations will lease lots from the airport and then build the hangars. At the end of the lease (generally 30-years) the hangar becomes the property of the airport. The reason it works this way is pure economics. It wouldn't be financially feasible for the airport to build these large hangars — they're simply too expensive — and it would take too long for the airport to get it's money back. The grant money from the state aviation trust fund makes it possible for the airport to afford the cost of making ground "hangar ready."

The need for more t-hangars is on our radar. Hopefully, we can make it happen in the next few years. We've even identified the ground where they'll probably go (at the north end of the GA complex, near the fuel farm).

The challenge is coming up with the money to build them. We're hoping to get grant money to do it — and here's why —

Let's suppose, for the sake of conversation, that the airport just decided to pay for new t-hangars on its own dime. The cost of construction would be so high that we'd have to charge a very steep monthly rental fee in order to pay for them — so high that every small aircraft owner on the field would become irate.

Thanks for reading this long-winded response ... hope it makes sense!



January can be a cruel month — but not this time.

Our airport’s total passenger numbers for January were up 9.2 percent when compared to the same month last year. That’s the biggest January increase since 2006.

It’s not just January that’s cruel. You can add February and March to the list — it’s the first quarter blues — that time of the year when general economic activity slows WAY down. In the airline industry it’s the time when passenger numbers plunge and airlines have big fare sales to stimulate demand.  That’s why a January increase of nine percent gets our attention …

So what gives … why such a big increase?

The short answer is we don’t exactly know. The long answer is more complicated …

Take a look at the graph. What you see are total passengers numbers, at our airport, for every year this century. It’s pretty easy to read …

The plunge in 2001 was due to the September 11 terrorist attacks. The numbers go up as the industry recovers.

2005 was our peak — it’s the year Allegiant started service here and Delta added service to three destinations. The Mid Two Thousands were go-go days for the airlines.

As you follow the graph you’ll see the recession kick in; numbers swing wildly and then plunge in 2011. That’s when airlines cut capacity (number of available airplane seats) at airports nationwide. They did so in response to the recession and high fuel prices. But then things start to settle down … the cuts in service for Springfield were essentially over with by the end of 2011.

In 2012 and 2013 our total passenger numbers were up slightly: 2.8% in 2012, and up .05% in 2013.

The takeaway from the graph is that the industry has stabilized and is slowly improving.

So here we are in 2014 with the best January since 2006. Are we about to have another boom year? Probably not — at least not on the scale of 2005 - 2007. Given the nature of the airline business February could end up with flat or negative passenger numbers. That being said, I think there are several reasons for optimism:


  • Airport passengers are often a leading economic indicator for the general state of the economy. As the economy improves more people fly. Unemployment and job growth numbers from the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce show a much improving local economy:  in December the Springfield metro area reported an unemployment rate of 4.6%. A year ago it was 5.4%. Bottom line: as the local economy grows airport passenger numbers grow.
  • The airline turmoil of the past few years is over; airlines are now making a profit. Fuel prices have been stable for three years. With costs under control airlines seem a bit more willing to add capacity is some markets — but only those markets where they think they’ll make money.
  • Our airport saw a 3.7% increase in capacity in January. That’s the first increase since July of last year and the second biggest increase since February 2012. Bottom line: since the airlines are adding capacity here they must have some degree of confidence that our air market is strong.


So yes, things are looking up. Here’s hoping that that the rest of the year is as good as January!




A common misperception about air service in Springfield is that the airlines always charge higher fares at Springfield when compared to fares in Tulsa, Kansas City, St. Louis, and more recently, in Branson.

The misperception was driven home again, this morning, by Christopher Dixon, an opinion writer for the Springfield News-Leader. In his opinion piece today Mr. Dixon laments the loss of the Southwest Airlines (SWA) service at the Branson airport.

(Here’s the back story — AirTran Airlines began service to the Branson airport shortly after the airport opened in the spring of 2009. The service was subsidized — meaning that AirTran was paid to provide the service. In September of 2010 AirTran was bought out by SWA. SWA inherited the Branson route, along with every other AirTran route. The merged airline continued serving Branson, using AirTran branded airplanes, until January of 2013. After that it started using airplanes with the Southwest brand. It was also about this time that the subsidies for the route ended. Even without the subsidy Southwest gave it a go, but announced in December that it's dropping the service in June of 2014.)

His dismay over the loss of SWA service is understandable — Southwest is a good airline with great customer service. The loss of Southwest in the market is regrettable. What’s less understandable is the message the writer sends about the Springfield airport: fares are always higher. This simply isn’t the case —

In the past few weeks airlines offered the following fares from Springfield; all fares are roundtrip:


  • Las Vegas: $211
  • Los Angeles (LAX): $237
  • Orlando: $136
  • St. Petersburg: $135
  • New York City (LGA): $218
  • Chicago (ORD): $161


I could go on, but you get the idea: it doesn’t always cost more to fly from Springfield. Does it sometimes? Sure  — especially if the customer books at the minute. But here’s the bottom line: please don’t assume that the airlines always charge more in Springfield. Shop around; compare. And remember — just because it’s more expensive one time you check, it doesn’t mean that’s it’s always more expensive.

And while it probably goes without saying, remember to take other costs into consideration. If you’re thinking about driving to another airport consider the cost of gasoline. The cost of meals on the road. The cost of your time. The cost of a possible hotel room near the airport. All those things add up.

All we ask is that you check us out; please don't assume.


Jan 08 2014 Should You Use a Travel Agent? BY sgf-adminTAGS Customer Service


Here at the airport we spend significant time listening to airline customers complain about airline customer service — especially when it comes to making changes to itineraries. The customer has tried calling the airline; they end up on what seems indefinite hold. They try websites. They try apps. Invariably, my response to the airline customer is: "why don't you use a travel agent?"

That question doesn't immediately compute — "a what...!! Oh ..."

In one sense we've all been trained to forget about travel agents — they are soooo 20th Century, so pre-1995. Today all we have to do is use the Internet and all its progeny to deal with an airline. Well, you now know how frustrating that can be ...

It's not just the magic spell of the Internet that made us forget about travel agents; the airlines did their part too. They prefer that all transactions go directly through them. That way they don't have to give the travel agent a cut.

But here's the thing ...

Travel agents are all about customer service. That's how they make their living. They are travel experts. It's their job to make your travel experience easier. Don't believe it? Check out this story in USA Today. As one road warrior told the paper, "...the value of a deeply experienced and widely connected travel agent who can … smooth a detail or fix a miscue makes for nice peace of mind."