Airfares also show dramatic drop
Passenger traffic at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport dropped 7 percent in 2009 compared to its 2008 record year, a decrease related to rising oil prices and the struggling economy. Total passengers in 2009 were 1,505,607, a decrease of 113,468 passengers. December traffic alone fell 3.61%, with the winter storm during the week of Christmas causing at least 22 cancellations.
For comparison, traffic at Des Moines was down 7.6%; Kansas City, - 6.6%; Tulsa, -11.5%; Oklahoma City, -9.9%. U.S. traffic was down 6.2% through October, the latest figures available. The decline in traffic began in the summer of 2008, when oil prices reached record highs, forcing airlines to cut capacity and introduce baggage fees and other ancillary fees. The economic downturn has led to less demand from both business and leisure travelers. Sharp declines in passenger traffic were seen during the first half of 2009, but traffic appears to have stabilized the last half of 2009.
“Wichita’s capacity, or available seats, is down 9% from our peak in 2007,” said Valerie Wise, Air Service and Business Development Manager for the Wichita Airport Authority. “However, our load factors continue to improve, indicating that flights are filling up, which is healthy for the airlines.”
U.S. average domestic fare for the third quarter 2009 has dropped 14.4%, which is the largest year-to-year decrease on record. Wichita’s average fare has dropped 19.5% from 2008 and 26.2% from 2000. Wichita’s average fare of $311.23 (based on domestic itinerary fares, round-trip or one-way, including taxes and booking fees) is now less than the fare in Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
“While this is good news for the consumer, it is not good news for the airlines. Until the economy improves, airlines will not be adding capacity,” Wise said.