Ongoing and sometimes bitter negotiations between American Airlines and union officials have not yet had a major impact on traffic figures at the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) or the Fort Smith Regional Airport.
American Airlines – to include its American Eagle affiliate – is the largest carrier at the two airports.
American, which filed for bankruptcy in November 2011, has in the past months worked through thousands of flight cancellations resulting from an increase in maintenance reports from pilots and other employees. Management at American has blamed some of the cancellations on a union effort to gain leverage in contract negotiations.
The delays and cancellations have seen some consumers and travel agents book with other carriers to avoid the uncertainty.
American recently announced it would cancel about 1% of its daily flights — roughly 35 out of its 3,500 daily flights — to “improve operational reliability.”
“This will not impact holiday travel for our customers,” American officials noted in the memo.
Traffic systemwide for American was down 2.8% in September, with year-to-date boardings up just 0.8% for the carrier.
September enplanements at XNA totaled 47,351, up 7.36% compared to September 2011, and the second consecutive year-over-year increase. For the first nine months of 2012, enplanements at XNA total 424,289, down slightly from the 425,329 during 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.
American posted 18,910 enplanements out of XNA during September, just slightly below the 18,985 in September 2011. For the year, American and American Eagle have combined for 171,646 enplanements, or 40.45% of traffic out of the airport.
September enplanements at Fort Smith totaled 7,104, down 3.1% compared to September 2011. For the first nine months of 2012, enplanements at Fort Smith total 65,400, ahead of the 63,630 in the same period of 2011.
As with XNA, American Airlines is the most active carrier at Fort Smith. The airline has 38,300 enplanements out of Fort Smith for the first nine months of 2012, up over 37,311 during the 2011 period. However, American enplanements during September totaled 4,146, down 7.1% compared to September 2011.
Delta has 27,100 enplanements out of Fort Smith for the first nine months, ahead of the 26,319 during the 2011 period.
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.
Enplanements at the Bill & Hillary Clinton Airport (Little Rock National Airport), total 777,177 for the first eight months of 2012, up 6.68% compared to the 2011 period. (Little Rock airport officials release enplanement figures later in the month.)
August enplanements at the airport were 97,247, down 4.84% compared to August 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 enplanements at Little Rock were up 5.32% in September, and are up 7.6% during the first eight months of 2012.