By Kathrahynn Heidelberg
January 25, 2011
MONTROSE – Montrose Regional Airport is flying high, having seen record traffic in 2010.
The number of people getting on planes at Montrose Regional stood at 96,254, and 96,498 people got off planes in Montrose last year, said Aviation Director Lloyd Arnold.
By comparison, 2009’s numbers were 92,195 enplanements and 92,238 deplanements.
“We had the best year in history,” Arnold said Friday. “We’re glad to see that, especially in this economy. Having the best year in history is a real positive thing for the region.”
Arnold said 2010’s numbers have yet to be audited, but audits typically result in higher numbers.
The numbers continue an upward trend for the airport, where once enplanements were not projected to hit 93,000 until 2013. It hit that number in 2007, and 2010’s numbers were greater still.
Arnold said daily flights from Atlanta to Montrose Regional added last year helped boost numbers, as did target marketing.
“We’ve been doing some target marketing that’s been very beneficial, and that’s helping the flights,” he said. “The overall customer satisfaction is increasing at the airport, due to the fact we’ve increased our parking and services. It just makes for a more comfortable transition for customers. In this area, they have choices, and they’re starting to fly into Montrose on a more frequent basis.”
Increased traffic through the airport benefits the community economy. The state Department of Transportation’s most recent economic impact study, prepared in 2007 and released in 2008, showed a regional impact of about $330 million. The impact studies are conducted every five years, and the next will be undertaken in 2012.
Further, the airport’s federal entitlement funding is based on its number of commercial enplanements.
Montrose County invested in capital improvements at the airport, Arnold said. Between the past and current boards of county commissioners, terminal expansion began, the airport parking lot was enlarged and a new fee schedule began providing free parking for the first 30 minutes.
The airport also is erecting security fencing required by the Federal Aviation Administration and Transportation Security Administration.
The county received hefty grants to pay for the expansion of the 28,000-square-foot terminal.
That project includes an 80-foot extension, which creates more space for commercial airline bays, 40 feet more space for the departure lounge and enhanced passenger comfort.
Arnold said the airlines should be able to install their new counters in April, and that will allow a wall to be built inside the terminal, as well completion of redevelopment, including new bathrooms.
Terminal expansion could be completed as early as June.
“Even though we are going through a terminal expansion right now, we are continuing to grow at the same time,” Arnold said. “I feel the Montrose County commissioners are pretty forward-thinking, in putting a lot of value into the airport.
“Although we’re spending money on infrastructure, our enplanements are increasing, and it’s important that we stay ahead of the curve in order to serve the traveling public in this region.”
There’s also a correlation between commercial enplanements and general aviation, Arnold said. Improved security is something general aviation users like to see, and the improvements for commercial traffic also benefit general aviation traffic.
The growing numbers are good news, he said.
“It just goes to show there’s been at least a 10 percent increase in economic impact to the region. When you have those kinds of indicators in this time of economic downturn, it’s a positive sign,” said Arnold.
“When the economy gets turned around, I think we’re going to see even larger increases at the airport.”