3rd Quarter flight volume down
For the first time in a long time the Salt Lake City International Airport is seeing declining air service.
September, which is the latest month for which numbers are available, showed the impacts of a downturn in the economy and higher fuel prices, said Barbara Gann, public relations and marketing director for Salt Lake City department of airports.
"For the first time in many months, even years, we began to see negative trends in passenger numbers," she said.
The "good news," she said, is that the trend is national. Salt Lake City is still faring well in relation to comparable airports.
According to a press release dated Sept. 3, daily departures were down 13.4 percent and daily available seats were down 12.3 percent.
Departures at the Hawaii airport were down 25 percent, she said. Orlando was down 18 percent, and Las Vegas was down 16 percent.
One reason for the decline in Salt Lake City is the Delta Air Lines merger with Northwest that is causing changes as the companies integrate.
The most recent change from the merger was Delta’s implementation of a $15 baggage fee. The bad news is that they were the last major airline not to charge, but the upside is that it is now $10 cheaper to check two bags with Delta.
According to spokesman Anthony Black, Delta announced in the 2nd Quarter that it was going to reduce domestic U.S. flying after Labor Day, when demand seasonally drops off, to save on the high cost of fuel. The overall capacity numbers (load factor) remained consistent through the change.
Gann believes many of the flights dropped due to the merger were either seasonal, start-up or were to small communities.
"Overall, the impact to the consumer is relatively nil," she said.
Regional jets that are smaller in size actually use more fuel and were cut to save money. While not seriously impacting monthly or yearly numbers, the cuts might affect access to Park City.
Gann said she predicts these trends to stabilize as the price of fuel lowers. She also doesn’t think the decline is an indication of bad times. The airport was at an all-time high before the decline.
"Across the country everyone took a hit, but we’re well positioned to weather the cycle," she said.
Access to Park City is on the mind of Al Noble, general manager of Park City Transportation Services.
The fall, or 3rd Quarter, is always slow for travel and is the worst time of the year, he said, but advance reservations for taxi services are looking normal.
During the ski season Noble said they closely follow statistics and flight banks from the airport and schedule vehicles accordingly.
Like many others, reports of decreased flight capacity concerns him.
"We’re a fly-to destination. The more flights there are, the better pricing and the more people will come," he said.
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