DALLAS Moody’s Investors Service downgraded Tulsa International Airport’s revenue bonds to Baa1 from A3, citing five straight years of declining enplanements.
The Nov. 20 downgrade comes ahead of a $36 million issue of revenue and refunding bonds by the Tulsa Airports Improvement Trust and affects $146 million of parity debt. The trust also operates R.L. Jones, Jr. Airport, a general aviation airport.
“The downgrade reflects steady, gradual declines in competitiveness of Tulsa International Airport highlighted by five straight years of enplanement declines that have continued into fiscal year 2014 principally due to airline strategy to reduce available seats in the Tulsa market and increase fares,” wrote analyst Charles Berckmann.
Standard & Poor’s rates the bonds an underlying BBB-plus with a stable outlook. The bonds, to be priced through negotiation with RBC Capital Markets, will carry insurance from Build America Mutual, rated AA by S&P.
Fitch Ratings does not rate the airport.
Moody’s said it considers the airport’s financial performance weak. Another factor in the downgrade is a long-running lawsuit regarding Great Plains Airlines.
The airline declared bankruptcy and ceased operations in 2004, three years after it was founded in Tulsa with $27 million of tax credits and government loans.
Proceeds of the $32.8 million Series 2013A bonds will fund capital improvements to Concourse A and pay issuance costs. The $3.2 million in 2013B bonds will refund outstanding certificates of participation associated with energy efficient equipment for interest savings.
In June the airport completed a $20.3 million extension of its primary commercial service runway to 9,999 feet. The project was the third phase of a plan to completely reconstruct the 18-inch-thick runway, which was last rebuilt in 1982.