Chart of statsAirline passenger growth at the Springfield-Branson National Airport may have recovered from the downturn caused by the pandemic. In March, the airport set a record for the month, with 97,457 total passengers.

Two years ago, during the early days of the pandemic, travel was down 94 percent. Since then, business has slowly recovered, and in recent months the upturn has been more pronounced.

Several factors contribute to the increase. They include the apparent winding down of the pandemic in the United States, a strong local economy, and
pent-up travel demand.

“The non-business traveler is definitely part of pent-up demand,” says Kent Boyd, airport spokesman. “Folks haven’t traveled for the past two years. They want to get out of town and go on vacation. They want to visit family.”

Demand is surging despite higher fares and problems with airline operations.

During the early days of the pandemic, airlines mothballed airplanes and reduced staff. Now, with the increase in demand, they’re working to put planes and crews back in the air as soon as possible. It’s a challenge made worse by a pilot shortage that’s been growing for the past decade. The result is that airlines have fewer flights in the air than they’d like to. For example, in mid-April Allegiant Air reduced its Springfield summer schedule 15 to 20 percent, citing “limited crew resources.” Allegiant made similar reductions nationwide.

Other airlines face the same problems, and they all say improvements will take time.

It's against this backdrop that March’s passenger numbers stand out. People flew from Springfield in record numbers even with the headwinds of rising fares and a struggling airline industry.

“We’re hopeful that the airlines are on the road to a full recovery,” says Boyd. “The March passenger numbers could be a sign of even better things to come.”