August enplanements at the Fort Smith Regional Airport and the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) went against the trend, with activity down in Fort Smith and up at XNA.
August enplanements at XNA totaled 50,388, up 11.28% compared to August 2011, and the first year-over-year increase since February. The last time enplanements at XNA topped 50,000 in August was in 2007.
Scott Van Laningham, executive director of XNA, attributed part of the growth to a few larger planes used at the airport, and possibly through a US Airways direct flight to Washington-Reagan that began in July.
For the first eight months of 2012, enplanements at XNA total 376,064, down 1.35% compared to the same period in 2011.
The airport will need enplanement gains through the remainder of the year to avoid two consecutive years of enplanement declines. Enplanements at XNA totaled 562,747 during 2011, down 1.38% compared to 2010. During 2010, XNA had 570,625 enplanements, up 5.49% over 2009. XNA’s first full year of traffic was 1999, and the airport posted eight consecutive years of enplanement gains before seeing a decline in 2008.
With 20,397 enplanements during August, American Airlines — which includes American Eagle — continues to carry the most passengers out of XNA. ASA and other Delta connections handle almost 27% of enplanements out of XNA.
XNA officials recently learned the airport will receive a $950,000 Small Community Air Service Development Grant to be used as a revenue guarantee to attract another low-cost carrier to the airport. The only discount carrier is Allegiant and there are limited destinations available through that carrier. For the first eight months of 2012, Allegiant has carried 8.6% of XNA enplanements.
XNA also learned Wednesday (Sept. 12) that it will receive a $270,000 grant to create a Sustainable Master Plan, which will outline the airport’s sustainability goals and initiatives, according to a press release from the office of U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark. This plan will allow the airport to reduce its environmental impact, realize economic benefits and improve community relations.
Enplanements during the first half of 2012 were trending up at Fort Smith, but July was down 6.7%, and August enplanements of 6,847 are down 3.2% compared to August 2011.
However, the airport remains in positive territory. For the first eight months of 2012, enplanements at Fort Smith total 58,296, up 3.55% compared to the same period in 2011.
Enplanements at the Fort Smith Regional Airport during 2011 eked out a 0.12% gain over 2010, marking two consecutive years of enplanement growth at the airport. For the year, the airport posted 86,234 enplanements compared to 86,129 during 2010.
American Airlines is the most active carrier at Fort Smith. The airline has 34,154 enplanements out of Fort Smith for the first eight months of 2012, up over 32,847 during the 2011 period. Delta has 24,142 enplanements out of Fort Smith for the first eight months, just ahead of the 23,448 during the 2011 period.
Enplanements at the Bill & Hillary Clinton Airport (Little Rock National Airport), total 679,930 for the first seven months of 2012, up 6.94% compared to the 2011 period. (Little Rock airport officials release enplanement figures later in the month.)
July enplanements at the airport were 105,277, down 1.54% compared to July 2011.
If the trend continues, 2012 could mark the end of five consecutive years of enplanement declines at the Little Rock airport. Enplanements at Little Rock National during 2011 totaled 1.103 million, down 1.92% compared to the 2010 period.
American Airlines reported Tuesday (Sept. 11) that enplanements during August through its global system totaled 9.559 million, up 0.5% compared to August 2011. For the first eight months of 2012, enplanements for the carrier were 73.2 million, up 1.4% compared to the same period in 2011.
Delta reported Sept. 5 that its August enplanements were 15.56 million, up 1.6% compared to August 2011. Year-to-date, Delta enplanements systemwide are 111.92 million, up just 0.8%.
Enplanements could slow through the remainder of 2012 as airlines reduce capacity, according to the Boyd Group.
According to this Sept. 3 report from Air Transport World, Boyd Group predicts there will be approximately 740 million to 745 million U.S. enplanements, at or slightly below 2011’s figures. Reduced capacity (fewer seats and planes) and other airline restructuring — to include likely changes from the ongoing bankruptcy process at American Airlines — could result in 7 million fewer seats in the air and 3% fewer departures, the Boyd report noted.
XNA’s Laningham echoed the Boyd assessment.
“The airlines have done a good job of squeezing the excess capacity out of the system. When all the seats are taken (on the limited number of planes in service), it doesn’t leave you a whole lot of room to grow,” he explained.