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XNA on pace for record year, Fort Smith airport sees more traffic

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.

The Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) is on track to push past 600,000 annual enplanements, and the Fort Smith Regional Airport may post more than 90,000 enplanements for the first time in seven years.

Arkansas commercial airport trends that began early in 2014 have continued through July, with traffic increases in Northwest Arkansas (XNA) and Fort Smith and enplanement declines in Little Rock.

Enplanement growth should continue through the end of summer and the Labor Day travel time. Airlines for America – previously the Air Transport Association – predicts a 2% year-over-year gain in passengers flying U.S. airlines during the seven-day Labor Day travel period.

“From Wednesday Aug. 27 through Tuesday, Sept. 2, A4A expects 14 million air travelers will take to the skies, up from an estimated 13.8 million in 2013, with the busiest day of the period occurring on Friday, Aug. 29. Airlines are adding seats to the marketplace to accommodate the expected increase in demand,” noted the association report.

XNA TRAFFIC
Travelers flying out of XNA during July totaled 63,986, up an impressive 21.7% compared to the 52,577 during July 2013. For the first seven months of 2014, enplanements at XNA total 372,947, up 10.42% compared to the same period in 2013. The January-July 2014 traffic is up 7.61% compared to the same period in 2007, the year XNA reached record enplanements of 598,886.

Based on monthly averages for 2014, XNA is likely to report more than 610,000 enplanements for the year. Enplanements at XNA fell to 540,918 in 2009 after reaching the 2007 high.

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.

FORT SMITH TRAFFIC
The Fort Smith Regional Airport, served by flights from Atlanta and Dallas-Fort Worth, posted July enplanements of 8,427, up 9.8% compared to July 2013. Enplanements for the first seven months of 2014 total 53,157, up 6.9% 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.

Based on monthly averages, Fort Smith enplanements could reach more than 91,000 in 2014. The last time enplanements were above 100,000 was in 2005, with 102,607. The last year enplanements were above 90,000 was in 2007, with 99,217.

With 30,566 enplanements for the first seven months of 2014, American Airlines accounts for 57.5% of commercial traffic out of Fort Smith. Delta Air Lines had the remaining market share for the first six months of 2014.

American enplanements out of Fort Smith are up 5.5% for the first seven months of 2014 compared to the same period of 2013, and Delta enplanements are up 10.64%.

LITTLE ROCK NUMBERS
Enplanements at the Bill & Hillary Clinton Airport (Little Rock National Airport) totaled 100,034 in July, down 0.39% compared to July 2013. Enplanements for the first seven months of 2014 were 615,054, down 5.28% 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.

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Among the top three carriers in Little Rock, only one has posted enplanement gains between January and July. Southwest, the largest carrier, has seen enplanements decline 14.74% in the first seven months. American, the second largest, has posted a 2.43% gain in the period, while Delta has a 2.1% decline in enplanements during the first seven months of 2014.

Officials with the airport announced Aug. 19 a plan to invest $20.6 million in a concourse renovation project. Work will include a new gate lounge with in-seat recharge for electronic devices, new jet bridges, new arrival-departure monitors and improved wi-fi capabilities.

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