Enplanements at the Fort Smith Regional Airport took a surprising negative turn in October, but at least one area travel agent sees early signs of “slight” improvement.
October enplanements at the airport totaled 6,512, down 14% compared to October 2008, according to figures published by the airport. For the first 10 months of 2009, enplanements total 66,328, down 10.2% from the 73,942 enplanements in the same period of 2008.
Prior to October, the airport enplanements were trending positive in that the year-over-year percentage declines were improving. Enplanements for the first nine months of the year were down 9.8%; down 10% for the first eight months; and were down 11.1% for the first six months of the year.
Daren Dozier Dallas, owner of Fort Smith-based Tripp Travel, said she could not explain the double-digit enplanement decline in October. However, Dallas is seeing slight improvements in the corporate travel business and the overall travel sector.
“We’re already seeing people booking for Spring Break, and we didn’t think that would happen at this point,” Dallas said. “We (in Fort Smith) were slow to get hit and we’ll be slow to recover, but I think our recovery is in the works.”
American Eagle — the primary commercial airline operating out of Fort Smith — reported that its October boardings were 1.461 million, up 6.6% from October 2008. For the year, the regional airline reports boardings of 13.37 million, down 5.7% compared to the same period of 2008.
Passenger enplanements at the Fort Smith Regional Airport totaled 87,030 in 2008, down 12.2% from the 99,127 enplanements in 2007. The 2008 traffic total is the lowest at the airport in the past 10 years.
The Fort Smith Regional Airport lost in June its direct Delta connection to the Atlanta airport. The loss is a result of the acquisition of Northwest Airlines by Delta. American Eagle Airlines operates five flights a day — all connecting to Dallas-Fort Worth — out of Fort Smith. Delta/Northwest has three flights a day to Memphis.