Flight Blog


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."


Nov 26 2013 Just Google It! BY sgf-adminTAGS Midfield Terminal, Misc.


Image of map

The folk at Google have made it a little bit easier to navigate our terminal building — take a look at this screen shot:

This screen shot is from an iPhone. It shows the floor plan of the terminal as viewed on Google Maps. It's part of Google's Indoor Map program.

The floor plan is visible on smart phones, and other mobile devices, as long as the satellite view is turned off. It’s also visible on desktop computer web browsers, as long as Google Maps is in the classic configuration, with the satellite view turned off.

Give it a try by clicking here: https://maps.google.com/maps?ll=37.239135,-93.39595&spn=0.003617,0.008256&t=m&z=18



Jun 24 2013 Painting the Summer Away BY sgf-adminTAGS How the Airport Works


Many of us have summer projects involving paint. Paint the house. Paint the kitchen. The deck. The bathroom. The kid's room. The runway ...

Yes, every summer we paint the runways. No nice mauve or baby blue — we go strictly by the book: black, yellow, white. And we don't stop with the runways — we do the taxiways, the tarmacs, and any other piece of pavement that requires it.

Painting at the airport can be tricky at times: the painting machines are notoriously fussy; the summer heat drives pavement temperatures to well over a hundred degrees; sometimes you have to quit painting in a hurry and let an expected flight land. And then there's the matter of neatness. If everything isn't perfect the Federal Aviation Administration can ding us during our annual safety inspection.

We thought you might like to have a behind the scenes peak at our annual painting ritual ...

The first thing you have to do is close the runway that needs painting. Among other things it requires hauling a big X to each end of the runway. The Xs have bright lights mounted to them.

Approaching pilots will see them and know that the runway is closed. The photo gives an idea of how big the painting project is. The distance from the X to the other end of the runway (in the background) is approximately 7,000 feet. And all those pavement markings you see have to be repainted.

As mentioned earlier, painting machines are fussy; sometimes they work and sometimes they don't. Nozzles get clogged. Air pressure on the lines can go south in a heart beat. Alignment mechanisms go askew and suddenly you've painted a crooked line. 

The job of keeping things on the straight and narrow falls on the backs of the Airfield Maintenance team. In the photo on the left Kevin Rhoten (L) and David Chamberlin (R) discuss the latest round of orneriness from the  painting machine. That tangle of tubes shoot three colors of paint, plus tiny glass beads. The beads make the paint reflective at night.

The painting machine is mounted on the back of a small flatbed truck. The arrangement includes barrels of paint, beads, a generator to run an air compressor (that clanks all the time), and just enough room for the an operator. In the photo on the right-below David Chamberlin makes sure the paint goes where it's supposed to.

The box-like contraption hovering above the pavment houses the paint nozzles. The truck driver drives slowly (less than 10 mph) and Chamberlin (on the back) monitors progress. That edge stripe they're painting is 36-inches wide.

It'll take four weeks to finish the entire painting project, along with thousands of gallons of paint, thousands of pounds of glass beads, and more than a few tubes of sunblock.





Photo of paint truck