Year-to-date enplanements down at two of Arkansas’ three largest airports

by Kerri Jackson Case ([email protected]) 90 views 

Arkansas. Blue suitcase with label at airport.

The air travel picture is mixed for Arkansas’s three largest airports. Little Rock National, Arkansas’s largest commercial airline, and Fort Smith are down in passengers for the year. The Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) is holding steady for the year, slightly up in November and 2015.

For the third month in a row, Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport posted growth in enplanements. November 2015 was up 3.11% from 161,172 passengers in November last year to 166,188 this year. However, enplanements for the first 11 months of the year total 1.828 million enplanements, down 4.48% compared to the 1.913 million enplanements in the same period of 2014.

Officials say good weather for the past few months and additional flights have helped with passenger numbers. They attribute the overall downward trend to the repeal of the Wright Amendment in October 2014. They predict 2016 will hold steady at2015 numbers because of further increases in flight options.

Previous big gains in traffic have slowed at XNA. Enplanements were up by nearly 7% during the first quarter of 2015. After a slightly off summer, XNA traffic was up 1.28% in November. For the first 11 months of the year, XNA enplanements total 599,069, up 1.28% compared to the same period in 2014.

The airport is served by five airlines that provide connections to 10 U.S. cities. XNA’s first full year of traffic was 1999, and the airport posted eight consecutive years of enplanement gains before seeing a decline in 200

Thanksgiving did not seem to help traveler counts in Fort Smith. Fort Smith Regional Airport enplanements were down 18% in November. Year-to-date, enplanements total 160,027, down 13% compared to the same period in 2014. The airport offers flights to Atlanta and Dallas-Fort Worth through Delta and American Airlines.

NATIONAL TRENDS
Nationally, the coming two weeks are expected to be busy for airports around the country. Airlines for America, an industry trade group, projects 38.1 million passengers will fly on U.S. airlines during the 17-day period from Dec. 18 through Jan. 3, an increase of more than 3% from the comparable period a year ago.

“U.S. airlines are well positioned to serve the higher demand by adding flights and seats, deploying new and larger aircraft and boosting staffing,” John Heimlich, vice president and chief economist for Airlines for America, said in a statement. “We attribute the increase to the improving economy and the fact that airfare remains affordable, having declined 4.3 percent through the first nine months of the year.”

Analysts expect the busiest travel days expected to be Sunday, Jan.3; Friday, Dec. 18; and Sunday, Dec. 27, respectively. Consistent with historical patterns, the lightest travel days are expected to be Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

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

ENPLANEMENT HISTORY (Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport, since 2000)
2014: 1.038 million
2013: 1.085 million
2012: 1.147 million
2011: 1.103 million
2010: 1.124 million
2009: 1.134 million
2008: 1.193 million
2007: 1.267 million
2006: 1.275 million
2005: 1.265 million
2004: 1.138 million
2003: 1.063 million
2002: 1.101 million
2001: 1.211 million
2000: 1.276 million

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