Passenger Numbers Continue Slide

Tulsa International Airport passenger numbers declined 15 percent compared to a year ago.
Total passengers for the second quarter were 761,003, compared to 895,422 a year ago, according to the Tulsa Airport Authority. TIA took a hit in June when the airport reported an 11-percent decrease in total passengers.
Airports across the country have felt the slowdown as airlines, responding to the economic decline, reduced the number of seats available.
The biggest change Tulsa airport officials expect in the future is that more passengers will check in online before even arriving to the airport, said Alexis Higgins, spokeswoman for the Tulsa Airport Authority.
“Self-service check-in has definitely grown, to the point that every airline at TUL now provides kiosks at their ticket counters for their passengers. American and Southwest both have kiosks at the checkpoint as well,” Higgons said. TUL is Tulsa International’s three-letter identifier.
To the east, Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport reported a 14-percent drop in total passengers during the second quarter from a year ago.
For the April-May-June period, Northwest Arkansas Regional, or XNA, reported 149,550 total passengers, compared to 157,693 at the same time in 2008.
The numbers reflect the nationwide trend, according to the Air Transport Association of America.
The industry trade organization for the leading U.S. airlines reported last month that passenger revenue fell 26 percent in June versus the same month in 2008 – the eighth consecutive month in which passenger revenue has fallen from the prior year.
The number of passengers traveling on U.S. airlines in June fell 6.5 percent while the average price to fly one mile fell 20.7 percent, a sharp decline surpassing even those witnessed during the 2001 recession and post-9/11 terrorist attacks.
Also hurting the softening demand for passenger travel was a decline in cargo traffic. Cargo traffic across the U.S. fell 20 percent year over year in May.
It marked the 10th consecutive month of declining cargo traffic.
Total cargo at Tulsa International for the second quarter was 14,386 tons, a 16-percent decline from the same period a year ago. Northwest Arkansas Regional reported 46,134 pounds for the second quarter — a 39-percent decline from 76,119 pounds a year ago.
Branson completed a regional airport, about a two hour drive from XNA, on May 11.
The new airport, five miles north of the Arkansas-Missouri line, is expected to provide a travel option for people living as far away as Fayetteville, said Jeff Bourk, executive director of Branson Airport, on its Web site.
Executives at the regional airport in Highfill, Ark., haven’t seen a change.
“I don’t know if there has been an impact,” said Kelly Johnson, manager of the regional airport.
Airfares are down 19 percent nationwide so far this year, but that’s because of the national economy and fuel prices.
The $155 million Branson Airport is being watched by people in the industry, as it is the only privately owned commercial airport in the U.S. Officials have plenty of flexibility in making business decisions as there are no federal funds. The airport expects between 250,000 and 300,000 enplanements during the first full year of operation. The terminal is designed to accommodate up to 750,000 deplaning passengers per year, according to the Branson airport Web site.
Tulsa airport officials are “intrigued” by the funding and operational activities at the new Branson Airport, Higgins said.
“We will monitor their growth,” she said.
TIA and city leaders have been able to effectively attract low-cost air service which benefits their residents and should provide a convenient option for leisure travelers, Higgons said.
“We do not believe that it will significantly impact traffic at TUL, as we do have a broader range of schedules and destinations,” she said.

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