Editor’s note: This story is a component of The Compass Report. The quarterly Compass Report is managed by The City Wire. Supporting sponsors of The Compass Report are Cox Communications and the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce.
First quarter 2014 commercial airline enplanements are up 5.36% and 9.1%, respectively, in Northwest Arkansas and Fort Smith, but down more than 6% in Little Rock.
Travelers flying out of XNA during March totaled 51,325, up 4.09% compared to the 49,309 during March 2013. For the first quarter of 2014, enplanements at XNA total 133,785, up 5.36% compared to the same period in 2013. The early 2014 traffic is up 1.77% compared to the same period in 2007 – the year that XNA reached its record enplanement of 598,886. (See XNA enplanement history at the end of this report.)
While they welcome the gain, officials at XNA aren’t sure why traffic began to push more positive in the first quarter.
“We even went back in (February) to look at last January weather thinking it could be the reason for the jump. It was not,” said Kelly Johnson, director of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport. “I think the economy is picking up thus more travel. We hope the trend continues. I have talked with other airport operators and they too are seeing increased traffic at different places around the country.”
Johnson also said the effort continues to recruit more carriers to the airport, but industry conditions are not helping.
“The U.S. has seen 200 airlines come and go and we are now down to four major carriers and just a handful of start-up discount carriers (discount airlines). There are hundreds of airports nationwide doing the same things we are in attempts to get service into their individual markets. We are taking an all-inclusive approach to lure new service into XNA,” Johnson said.
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.
FORT SMITH TRAFFIC
The Fort Smith Regional Airport, served by flights from Atlanta and Dallas-Fort Worth, posted March enplanements of 7,658, up 9.11% compared to March 2013.
Enplanements for the first quarter of 2014 total 20,692, up 9.14% 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. (See Fort Smith enplanement history at the end of this report.)
With 12,171 enplanements for the first quarter of 2014, American Airlines accounts for 58.8% of commercial traffic out of Fort Smith. Delta Air Lines had the remaining market share for the first quarter 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.
Total system traffic for American Airlines was 1% for the first quarter of 2014 compared to the same quarter in 2013. Regional enplanements were up 0.4%, while the regular, or “mainline,” traffic was up 1.2% in the quarter.
Delta total system traffic was up 3.5% for the first quarter, and it’s domestic (U.S.) traffic was up 3.8%. However, regional traffic for domestic flights was down 1.4% during the quarter.
LITTLE ROCK NUMBERS
Enplanements at the Bill & Hillary Clinton Airport (Little Rock National Airport) were 88,282 in March, down 6.24% compared to March 2013. Enplanements for the first quarter of 2014 were 231,380, down 6.51% compared to the same period of 2013.
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.
With 68,708 enplanements during the first quarter, Southwest posted the most enplanements of the eight carriers operating out of Little Rock. However, the enplanement count for Southwest was down 17.14% in the first quarter compared to the same quarter in 2013.
System traffic for Southwest Airlines during the first quarter was down 0.2% compared to the first quarter of 2013. The discount carrier also reported that the number of flights during the quarter was down 5.9%.
ENPLANEMENT HISTORY (Fort Smith Regional Airport, since 2000)
ENPLANEMENT HISTORY (Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, since 2000)