2015 was a record year at the Springfield airport — the total passenger count was 919,044. It demolishes the old record set in 2005 of 888,738, and is a 9% increase over 2014 passenger numbers.
Here’s another way of putting it: over 70,000 more passengers used the airport last year than in 2014. Why the huge growth? It’s a sign that the southwest Missouri economy is much improved — when the economy does poorly, fewer people fly. When it does better, more people fly because they have more expendable income.
2015 was marked not only by a record number of passengers, but also by several air service improvements —
American Airlines started new twice-daily service to its major hub in Charlotte, and all the airlines are using some bigger planes at Springfield. Demand is so high that over the past four years airlines have increased the number of seats for sale in Springfield by nearly 16%.
Ok, ok — what everyone really wants to know is how will growth improve air service, or change the airport? There are no exact answers, but here’s what may generally happen —
Within the next two to three years the airport will likely have more than a million total passengers. A million passengers is a big deal because once an airport hits that number, the business playing field starts to change. As numbers grow beyond a million, more than one restaurant may be willing to set up shop at the airport. That’s important to some customers because as they tell us, “we want more restaurant choices.”
What about more non-stop destinations? Convincing an airline to add destinations is always a tough sell, but beyond the million mark, it may get a bit easier. Much depends on the economy, the price of jet fuel, and the general business climate in the airline industry.
As some of you have noticed, growth does bring challenges — last year the airport’s parking lots frequently ran out of space — there were more cars than spaces! We should have parking lot expansion projects under construction later this year.
All in all 2015 was a great year — here’s to another in 2016!