Fort Smith Regional Airport Director Michael Griffin believes the almost 6% increase in enplanements at the airport in 2019 is a “direct reflection of the local community,” with business travel accounting for 75% to 80% of the traffic.
“You can take an enplanement flow chart and almost match it up to an economy flow chart,” Griffin, airport director, told Talk Business & Politics.
2019 enplanements out of the Fort Smith Regional Airport – Arkansas’ third largest commercial field – totaled 95,670, up 5.7% from the 90,501 in 2018. December enplanements totaled 8,277, up 4.17% from the 7,945 in December 2018.
“It was something I was hoping for, but it was obvious that we would (have enplanement growth) about midway though the year when American added a flight,” Griffin said.
American Airlines has five daily flights (M-F) out of Fort Smith and Delta has two daily flights. American traffic is responsible for all the gains at Fort Smith in 2019. The airline had 69,096 enplanements out of Fort Smith in 2019, up 10.1% compared with the airline’s 2018 traffic. Delta posted 26,574 enplanements, down from 27,763 in 2018.
Griffin, who has worked at the airport for 13 years and has been director since April 2017, said he works with an air service consultant to ensure both airlines are happy with operations out of Fort Smith, with part of that work involving how to help Delta improve its Fort Smith traffic. Griffin said feedback continues to be positive from the two airlines.
“Both are happy here in Fort Smith, so there are no immediate concerns with either airline,” he said.
Enplanements at the airport in 2019 were up for the fourth straight year. Following are the previous six years of enplanement totals.
Fort Smith is the smallest, in terms of traffic, of Arkansas’ three largest commercial fields. The Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) posted enplanements of 922,533 in 2019, up 17% over 2018. The Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock posted 1.124 million enplanements in 2019, up 5.17% over the 2018 total.
For the first 10 months of 2019, U.S. airlines carried 775.2 million passengers, the highest total based on comparable records since 2003, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. The January-October number reached a new high for five consecutive years. The 2019 10-month number is up 4.3% from 2018, up 9.3% from 2017 and up 12.4% from 2016.