Reporting in the Wall Street Journal (Airports Suffer Terminal Illness) tells us that airports across the country are suffering just like the airlines:
This loss of passengers is creating a vicious economic spiral that is gripping airports across the country. At a time when airports have taken increasing roles in passenger comfort and care because of the service slide of airlines, today’s financial pressures are forcing major service reductions and financial strains.
The flight cuts will make the airport more expensive for airlines. Many airports set landing fees and terminal rents charged to airlines based on debt payments and operating costs. When the number of passengers is reduced, costs per passenger go up. Flights become less profitable, and airlines reduce schedules more, potentially driving per-passenger costs even higher. Cash-strapped airports will likely also scale back on upkeep and building improvements. Facing reduced foot traffic — and sales — struggling airport shops and restaurants may close. …
Southwest and other carriers say fuel cost and flight profitability are the biggest drivers influencing decisions on where to eliminate flights, but airport costs are becoming an increasingly important factor.
I’ve written in the past in posts such as Consider Carefully Costs of a New Wichita Airport Terminal that we in Wichita need to make sure that we don’t add costs to the airlines that they aren’t prepared to pay.
As shown in the accompanying chart (click on the chart for a larger version), Wichita’s air traffic has been growing at a faster rate than the nation as a whole. Recently it has leveled off and even dropped. What will happen in the future? Almost no one has an optimistic outlook for airlines, and with the recent turmoil in the markets, the outlook may be even bleaker. If there is any way to economize on Wichita’s new air terminal, I would urge us to do that.