Expanded LA Service In Store for SGF Passengers This Year
Fresh off its best passenger count year, the Springfield-Branson National Airport is poised for continued growth in 2016, according to its director of aviation.
In his State of the Airport address Thursday, Brian Weiler focused on how far the airport has come since 2011, when the airline industry as a whole was struggling. Since then, there’s been a 24 percent increase in passengers, and a nearly 16 percent increase in the number of seats available.
Weiler hopes those trends will continue, announcing Thursday that Allegiant, one of four carriers at SGF, will extend its seasonal service to Los Angeles to year-round.
“Last year we had, and really for the last several years, we’ve had LAX twice a week for maybe three months for the peak summer season – that’s it. This year, starting in June during the peak season we’re going three times a week, and it will continue on after the peak season year round,” Weiler said.
The new agreement will also feature Airbus aircraft, larger than the existing LAX fleet used by Allegiant.
In 2015, Springfield-Branson National Airport began offering non-stop flights to Charlotte, North Carolina on American Airlines. Weiler says that so far it’s seeing about 80 percent capacity on those flights.
The airport’s next focus for expanded service, he says, is Minneapolis, noting it would be a chance to add another major destination for Springfield passengers traveling on Delta Airlines.
“We think that restoring service to Minneapolis on Delta has a strong case. Delta’s the only airline that only flies to one hub from our airport. So if you wanna get connected to the Delta network – even if you’re going to Seattle – you’ve gotta go through Atlanta.”
Weiler notes it’s still very early in the negotiation process, but that the expanded opportunity is on the airport’s wish list.
He talked about how the airline industry is much different today that five years ago, with many reluctant to add capacity, and a strong focus on profit and revenue. Even as low fuel prices are helping the airlines, instead of passing those lower costs onto the consumer, airlines are investing in new equipment and its employees.
“We may not like a lot of things associated with the new airline industry today, but I think it has brought a new stability that we’ve never seen to the industry that as a whole is good for us as consumers in the long run,” he said.
Other recent changes at SGF include the option of TSA Precheck, now the third Missouri airport to offer the service. In exchange for a fee and extensive background check, it allows faster security screenings. There’s also been a rebranding and expansion of the airport’s general aviation service and later this year the U.S. Customs office at the airport will be expanding.
One complication from the increase in passengers, says Weiler, is that long-term parking at the airport is becoming less available. He says plans are to expand to offer 350 additional spaces in the near future.
Weiler credits much of the airport’s recent success to the improving local economy.
SGF saw 913,395 passengers in 2015. The figure is now about 5,000 from previous estimates due to revised passenger numbers from American Airlines, but still represents a record passenger count for the airport.
Weiler says that coming off such a successful year, trends show SGF will surpass the 1 million passenger count within the next two years.