Air travel slows in Arkansas through August, up in U.S. through second quarter

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 50 views 

Air travel at Arkansas’ three largest commercial airports continued to slow in August, the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) the only airport to post a year-to-date gain. However, spending nationwide on travel and tourism increased through the second quarter of the year.

Enplanements at XNA totaled 435,646 for the first eight months of 2015, up just 1.26% compared to the same period in 2014. Fortunately, August enplanements at XNA ended three consecutive months of declines. August traffic out of the airport totaled 58,348, up 1.85% compared to August 2014.

XNA ended 2014 with 640,537 enplanements, up 10.15% over 2013, and more than the record of 598,886 enplanements in 2007. The 2014 gain also marked the third consecutive year of increased traffic at the airport.

XNA and officials with United Airlines announced Aug. 17 a new direct flight between Northwest Arkansas and San Francisco. The service is set to begin Oct. 25, and will be the 14th non-stop service out of XNA. The others are Atlanta, New York, Newark, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Orlando, Los Angeles, Charlotte, Las Vegas, Cincinnati, Houston, and Minneapolis/St. Paul.

The airport is served by Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and U.S. Airways.

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.

Enplanements at the Fort Smith Regional Airport total 59,506 for the first eight months of 2015, down 2.13% compared to the 60,803 enplanement during the same period in 2014. Enplanements at Fort Smith totaled 92,869 in 2014, up 9.87% compared to 2013.

August enplanements at Fort Smith totaled 7,100, down 7.14% from August 2014. The airport offers flights to Atlanta and Dallas-Fort Worth through Delta and American Airlines.

The source of decline in travel out of Fort Smith is with Delta. The airline has had 19,680 enplanements out of Fort Smith for the first eight months of 2015, down 31.55% compared to the same period in 2014. Enplanements by American out of Fort Smith during the first eight months total 39,817, up more than 14% compared to the same period in 2014.

The Bill & Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock posted enplanements of 657,240 for the first eight months of 2015, down 6.41% compared to the same period in 2014. The airport was the only one of Arkansas’ largest commercial airports to not post an enplanement increase in 2014. Enplanements in 2014 totaled 1.038 million, down 4.32% compared to 2013.

August enplanements in Little Rock totaled 86,238, down 1.14% compared to August 2014.

The federal Bureau of Economic Analysis reported Sept. 16 that real spending on travel and tourism increased during the second quarter at an annual rate of 6.5% after being up a revised 2.2% in the first quarter. By way of comparison, nationwide GDP during the second quarter was up 3.7%.

Spending on hotels and other “traveler accommodations” was up 13.2% in the second quarter thanks in large part to higher occupancy rates. Passenger air travel spending was up 11.6% during the second quarter.

Total tourism-related output was $1.6 trillion in the second quarter of 2015, of which $906.4 billion (58%) was direct tourism spending and $656.9 billion (42%) was indirect tourism-related spending. Total tourism-related employment was 8 million jobs in the second quarter of 2015, and of that 5.6 million (70%) direct tourism jobs and 2.4 million (30%) indirect tourism-related jobs.

ENPLANEMENT HISTORY (Fort Smith Regional Airport, since 2000)
2014: 92,869
2013: 84,520
2012: 86,653
2011: 86,234
2010: 86,129
2009: 78,432
2008: 87,030
2007: 99,127
2006: 94,717
2005: 102,607
2004: 92,928
2003: 90,493
2002: 87,944
2001: 95,419
2000: 104,182

ENPLANEMENT HISTORY (Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, since 2000)
2014: 640,537
2013: 581,487
2012: 565,045
2011: 562,747
2010: 570,625
2009: 540,918
2008: 571,845
2007: 598,886
2006: 586,320
2005: 583,940
2004: 511,714
2003: 448,228
2002: 400,063
2001: 374,122
2000: 367,157