Monday Insight – May 2, 2022

Fourth Quarter Projected Air Transport Demand Forecast

The latest Airports:USA® projections are not comforting. The rebound in post CCP-pandemic traffic is slowing.

  • Percent of 2019 Capacity: Declines to under 80% by Oct-Nov, down from over 90% earlier in the year.
  • Total US Airport Enplanements: @820 million, down from earlier estimates of over 890 million. Getting back to 2019 numbers not in the cards until @2025 – and that’s based on organic demand that has much less international traffic, and a slice of former business traffic gone forever.
  • Airline Expansion Strategies: Reduced or actually throttled down. We’re seeing this already.
  • Fleet Strategies: The retirement of 50-seaters will accelerate along with higher fuel prices. Airports that have large 50-seat overhaul/maintenance operations need to continue to plan to move into other aircraft or have nice empty hangars in 2023-2024.

As we noted to our clients and friends in last week’s Touch & Go™ news flash, there seems to be some confusion about where air traffic demand is headed. The economic indicators are pretty clear.

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The EAS Program. Mr. Roarke And Tattoo Would Be Proud.

“Da Plane! Da Plane!”

Ring that bell. Pass out the purple cool aide. Get the staff to do a native dance. It’s EAS time across the nation. New flights are coming to replace Skywest/United Express!

“Smiles, everyone!”

This is Fantasy EAS Island. An escape from reality, where dreams are tolerated even it they make no economic sense.

This past week, two prominent politicians urged the occupant in the front office of the DOT to promptly find an EAS replacement at Pueblo for now-departing United/SkyWest. The need is paramount. The effects on huge parts of the population are obvious.

Fantasy knows no bounds. Just say it’s so, and the facts don’t matter. It’s like being on a deserted island – deserted of reality and accuracy.

The situation is dire. Many, many people may be adversely affected. Read the missives:

Senator Michael Bennett, (D-CO) “The Pueblo Memorial Airport serves the South and Southeastern regions of Colorado and benefits greatly from EAS. Reliable and accessible air service, to and from Pueblo Memorial Airport, is necessary for Pueblo and the surrounding communities.”

From The Mayor of Pueblo: “The Pueblo Memorial Airport is a convenient and necessary service to our citizens here in Pueblo …  Many people use Pueblo as their connection to Denver and beyond …:”

“Da Plane! Da Plane!”

Yessir… facts and reality and accuracy are not necessary. This is indeed Fantasy EAS Island. Politicians like these can say just about anything, and the parrots in the local, national and aviation media say nothing.

But, Returning To The Nasty World Of Facts… Not to be party-poopers, but please note the underlined sections.

Lucky, it’s in the Fantasy Island of politics, where hyperbole and completely bogus babbling are as common as when doing a deal at Fast Eddie’s Backstreet Used Car Emporium. The difference is that in politics,  intellectual barn droppings like these are not legally actionable. If these guys were actually trying to peddle an ’06 Buick with hype claims like these, they’d be wearing orange jumpsuits.

Fact: The truth is that less than 12 people a day “benefit greatly” getting on each of Pueblo’s two 50-seat UAX flights that connect mostly just to United at its Demver hub. This, apparently, is the new math definition of “many people” in a county of over 168,000.

Once, It Was The Southwest Effect. Here, It’s The Starbucks Effect. Think about it. There are probably more people going through the local Starbucks in a given 60-minute period  than the 11+ folks climbing onto a PUB flight.

‘Cept at Starbucks, consumers are paying @ $4 each for that double-decaf, lactose-free latte, with “room” for a hit of soy milk. Out at the airport, the taxpayers are shelling out over 50 times that amount per passenger for those board two daily 50-seat round trips to connect the lucky dozen to other flights at Denver.

Put that in context with the political babble that surrounds the EAS program. Pepto-Bosmol, please.

Fact: Pueblo really has excellent air access…their consumers know it, but Hissoner the Mayor and the august Senator are clueless. See, it’s 42 minutes away at Colorado Springs Airport, which has over 30 daily departures on five airlines, accessing nine airlines’ connecting hubsites. Most people in the LA basin are farther from LAX in terms of time. A lot if travelers in Nassau County using LGA, ditto. That means COS is the de facto airport for PUB, regardless of expensive and irresponsible civic hubris.

No need for further discussion.

Order The Study. If you haven’t done so already, we’d suggest ordering the recent study by Swelbar-Zhong and Boyd Group International, which talks candidly and non-politically about the outdated, obsolete and ineffective Essential Air Service program. Click here.

Pueblo and the inaccurate comments above are clear indications of how badly change is needed.