OKC airport reports record year for passenger traffic

Published: Monday, January 14, 2019 By: Brian Brus Source: The Journal Record

Airline passenger traffic grew by more than 10 percent at Will Rogers World Airport last year, municipal airport data shows.

During the year, 2.17 million passengers boarded planes, setting a record for passenger traffic, compared with 1.96 million in 2017. Gains were significant for each of the 12 months, with the greatest jump last January of 17.4 percent. Good weather in April engaged travelers for summer vacations as well, with a rise of 16 percent compared with the same month in the previous year.

The growth speaks well of the local economy and increased route options, officials said. For example, Southwest Airlines opened the city’s first direct flight to Washington, D.C., in November. Frontier Airlines began operations in Oklahoma City in 2017 with service to Denver, Colorado, and Orlando, Florida. And American Airlines announced it will begin its own nonstop service to D.C. in February.

Ongoing construction will leave the airport in a good position to support even more passengers, airport spokeswoman Karen Carney said.

The Airport Trust recently awarded a $61.9 million contract to Timberlake Construction Co. to build a concourse of four new gates, an observation deck and passenger lobby. The concourse is the largest chunk of an $89.8 million terminal expansion plan, financed with bond debt that will be retired with revenue and facility fees. Construction is projected to take two years, concluding in early 2021.

Will Rogers topped the nation’s average for airline traffic last year, at least up to November, which was the last month reported by the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Services. Total domestic enplanements rose 3.1 percent from 2017 to 2018. U.S. carriers served about 74.1 million systemwide, in both domestic and international flights. Updated figures for December and the full year in review were scheduled for release this month until the partial government shutdown.

“BTS remains open except for the Office of Airline Information, which is closed and not accepting data submissions due to an appropriations lapse,” bureau officials posted online. “All BTS releases, except the Transportation Services Index, will be delayed.”

Will Rogers World Airport’s good news comes at a time when industry experts are watching for a slowdown because of reduced federal government services. President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats have been fighting for nearly three weeks about whether Trump’s demands for a Mexico border wall should be tied to legislation to fund the rest of the government.

American Federation of Government Employees TSA Council President Hydrick Thomas said in a prepared statement that some Transport Security Administration officers who provide airport security screening had already quit for lack of pay and more could follow.

And the president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association said that with number of controllers already at a 30-year low, missed workdays could quickly lead to extended times between takeoffs and landings, delaying passenger service throughout the system. Controllers are considered vital personnel who are not allowed to leave their jobs during crises, but that does not keep individuals from taking sick leave.

Read the story at JournalRecord.com

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