The number of travelers out of the regional airports in Fort Smith and Northwest Arkansas (XNA) during 2012 was slightly ahead of 2011 despite a reduction in the systemwide number of flights by the major carriers serving the two airports.
Enplanements at XNA totaled 565,045 during 2012, up just 0.4% compared to 2011. Although slight, the gain prevented XNA from posting 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. It reached a peak of 598,886 in 2007.
December enplanements at XNA totaled 42,034, down compared to the 43,141 in December 2011.
Following is a track of the previous five years of XNA enplanements.
Enplanements at the Fort Smith Regional Airport totaled 86,653 during 2012, just ahead of the 86,234 in 2011, and marking three consecutive years of enplanement gains.
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.
However, the year ended on a down note. December enplanements at Fort Smith totaled 6,547, down 9.57% compared to December 2011. For the fourth quarter of 2012, enplanements were down almost 6% compared to the 2011 period.
Following is a track of the previous five years of Fort Smith enplanements.
Regular enplanement traffic at Fort Smith peaked in 1998 at 109,034.
U.S. AIRLINE INDUSTRY TRENDS
When airline officials said a few years ago they planned to cut capacity in the system, they meant it. The number of American Airlines flights in 2012 was 523,000, down from 538,000 in 2011 and down considerably from the 605,000 in 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Delta, the other large carrier serving XNA and Fort Smith, saw its flights in 2012 fall to 727,000 compared to 732,000 in 2011.
“Airlines are not planning any real capacity increases – in fact, they are reducing capacity,” noted a report from the Boyd Group on 2012 airline industry conditions. “The name of the game is now revenue share, not willy‐nilly market share.”
The reduction in capacity has moved higher the load factor – essentially more seats occupied per flight. The load factor in 2012 was 83.3, up form 82.7 during 2011.
The Boyd Group also predicts that that airline industry is on a path to “losing its rural reach.” There were 1,232 regional jets operated by the airlines in 2010, with the number predicted to fall to 622 by 2015, and just 448 by 2020.
Most of the jets serving XNA and Fort Smith are regional jets.
The Boyd Group predicts the following realities for the airline industry between 2012 and 2020.
• Passenger growth slow – up 12% from today – to 517.6 million
• Enplanements: up around 10% to 799.1 million – less connections from rural
• Fleets: Smallest jet airliner: around 100 seats
• No 50‐seat jets are left – they are all run out
• Airline traffic is concentrating into fewer airports
• Service determined by potential for revenue capture
• Entire regions of the nation are no longer connected to the scheduled air transportation system – it’s raw economics.