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Early 2014 traffic up at Fort Smith, Northwest Arkansas airports

Editor’s note: This story is a component of The Compass Report. The quarterly Compass Report is managed by The City Wire and presented by Fort Smith-based Benefit Bank. Other supporting sponsors of The Compass Report are Cox Communications and the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Enplanements in Northwest Arkansas and Fort Smith are off to a good start in 2014, while traffic out of the Bill & Hillary Clinton National Airport (Little Rock) continues a decline that saw traffic dip 5.45% in all of 2013.

Traffic increases at XNA and Fort Smith during the first two months of 2014 came against thousands of U.S. flight cancellations during the period because of winter storms.

Travelers flying out of XNA during February totaled 40,873, up 5.05% compared to the 38,908 during February 2013. For the first two months of 2014, enplanements at XNA total 82,456, up 6.16% compared to the same period in 2013. The early 2014 traffic is up 4.1% compared to the same period in 2007, the year that XNA reached its record enplanement of 598,886.

For all of 2013, XNA enplanements totaled 579,679, up 2.58% compared to the same period in 2012. The enplanement growth remained stable through the year, with enplanements up 2.42% at the end of the first quarter of 2013.

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. 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 Airlines remains the dominant carrier at XNA with around 43% of all enplanements during 2013. Delta is second with around 27% of enplanements followed by United Airline at around 15%. The airport has more than 10 service connections with five carriers.

XNA officials recently approved upgrades and renovations to better manage the continued growth of traffic at the airport. Fort Smith-based SSI Inc. was hired in December for 2014 work that will focus on terminal lobby renovations. The work will include new counter tops at airline and rental car spaces, new carpeting and a new public address system.

Later in 2014, bathrooms and other spaces on the second floor are scheduled for renovations.

“Lots of remodeling is scheduled for this year, but it will be beautiful once completed. Thanks for your patience during these projects,” noted an XNA statement.

FORT SMITH TRAFFIC
The Fort Smith Regional Airport, served by flights from Atlanta and Dallas-Fort Worth, posted February enplanements of 6,212, up 3.8% compared to February 2013.

Enplanements for the first two months of 2014 total 13,034, up 9.16% compared to the same period in 2013.

For all of 2013, enplanements at the airport totaled 84,520, down 2.46% compared to the same period in 2012. The decline ended three consecutive years of enplanement gains at the airport.

With 7,836 enplanements for the first two months of 2014, American Airlines accounts for 60.1% of commercial traffic out of Fort Smith. Delta Air Lines had the remaining market share for the first two months of 2014.

Enplanements at the Fort Smith Regional Airport totaled 86,653 during 2012, just ahead of the 86,234 in 2011, and marked three consecutive years of enplanement gains.

LITTLE ROCK NUMBERS
Enplanements at the Bill & Hillary Clinton Airport (Little Rock National Airport) were 69,459 in February, down 6.87% compared to February 2013. Enplanements for the first two months of 2014 were 143,098, down 6.67% compared to the same period of 2013.

With 48,433 enplanements during January and February, Southwest posted the most enplanements of the eight carriers operating out of Little Rock.

Enplanements in 2013 totaled 1.085 million, down 5.45% compared to 2012. Enplanements in 2012 totaled 1.147 million, up 4.07% compared to 2011. The 2012 numbers ended five consecutive years of enplanement declines at Arkansas’ largest commercial field.

U.S. TOURISM, TRAVEL TRENDS
Early 2014 gains at Fort Smith and Northwest Arkansas follow a national trend of travel and tourism increases during the fourth quarter of 2013.

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reported Thursday (March 20) that “real spending” on travel and tourism grew at an annual rate of 4.2% in the fourth quarter, up from a revised 3.1% in the third quarter. The fourth quarter growth was better than the overall U.S. GDP increase of 2.4% during the fourth quarter.

“For the year, real spending on travel and tourism increased 3.6 percent in 2013 after increasing 2.8 percent in 2012. By comparison, real GDP increased 1.9 percent in 2013 after increasing 2.8 percent in 2012,” noted the BEA report.

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Employment in the travel and tourism industries was up 2.8% in the fourth quarter of 2013 after rising a revised 1.8% in the third quarter. By comparison, overall U.S. employment increased 1.8% in the fourth quarter. For the year, employment in the travel and tourism industries increased 2.2% in 2013 after increasing 2.7% in 2012. Overall U.S. employment increased 1.7% in 2013 and in 2012.

Notes from the BEA report also included:
• In the fourth quarter of 2013, total current-dollar tourism-related spending was $1.5 trillion and consisted of $915 billion (59%) of direct tourism spending — goods and services sold directly to visitors — and $625 billion (41%) of indirect tourism-related spending — goods and services used to produce what visitors purchase.

• Total tourism-related employment  was 8.1 million jobs in the fourth quarter of 2013 and consisted of 5.8 million (71%) direct tourism jobs — jobs where workers produce goods and services sold directly to visitors — and 2.3 million (29%) indirect tourism-related jobs — jobs where workers produce goods and services used to produce what visitors purchase.

• The leading contributors to the acceleration in the fourth quarter were “traveler accommodations,” and “food services and drinking places.” “Traveler accommodations” accelerated, increasing 14.5% in the fourth quarter after increasing 3.3% in the third quarter. “Food services and drinking places” also accelerated in the fourth quarter, increasing 7.7% after no change in the third quarter.

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