In 2019, Wichita Eisenhower National Airport set a new passenger record with 1,749,906 total passengers, an increase of 5% over the previous year’s record. Not only was it a record year, but it was the third consecutive record year. Keeping the momentum going will be a challenge in 2020.
The economy plays a significant role in travel demand. With the current layoffs at Spirit AeroSystems and aviation suppliers due to the Max grounding, air travel may suffer. Economic concerns tend to cause companies to cut costs, and travel is one of the first items cut. Leisure travel may also suffer because of employment uncertainty.
The Max grounding has had a double whammy on South Central Kansas, not only because of layoffs but because the airlines that fly the Max are not able to expand service until it resumes flying. This means adding new destinations will be challenging. Our overall scheduled capacity in the first half of 2020 is unchanged compared to the first half of 2019. Southwest, American, and United are mostly impacted by the Max grounding. While Max has not been used in Wichita, many routes from the connecting markets are operated with Max aircraft. Airlines have had to either rob flights from other markets or reduce flights to fulfill the routes flown by Max.
Opportunities for expansion may come from Delta, Frontier, and Allegiant. Delta is the only major airline that does not fly the Max aircraft and has no orders for the Max. Frontier and Allegiant use Airbus equipment and are expanding rapidly.
Continued support of all of our airlines at ICT is essential. When the airlines are able to expand again, they will look to markets that can generate strong traffic and revenue.
Valerie Wise, Air Service Development and Marketing Manager