Despite a tough start to 2013, the Lafayette Regional Airport is now touting four consecutive years of record passenger traffic.
For the year, 236,264 passengers boarded planes (4,912 more passengers than 2012) and 235,068 exited planes (5,482 more passengers than 2012). The total number of passengers was 471,332 for the year, an increase of 10,394 passengers over 2012’s record year.
With the expectation of a continued oil and gas industry boom, regional economic growth and airport expansion, officials hope 2014 will keep up with those recent years of high passenger volume.
The Louisiana Gulf Coast Oil Exposition in October and steady tourism traffic contributed a great deal to the high volume of passengers in 2013, Lafayette Airport Commission’s Director of Aviation Gregory Roberts said Tuesday.
That total was higher than in 2012 despite the fact that more than 60 flights were canceled due to severe weather early in the year, he said.
“In January and February we had a horrible weather here. Had those flights gone, that number would have been much higher,” Roberts said. “It was a very bad start to 2013. For us to break a record was very rewarding.”
This year the airport moves ahead with plans to build a new terminal that would accommodate more, larger commercial planes.
“We continue to look at options as far as where the building will go,” Roberts said. “The next logical step is for the commission to looking at engineering firms and architectural firms.”
Texas-based company Bell Helicopter’s recent announcement that it will establish an aircraft assembly facility at Lafayette Regional Airport could make the airport more attractive for airline expansion, Roberts said.
Mergers between United Airlines and Continental Airlines and US Airways and American Airlines are in the final stages and bring into question whether services those airlines provide will change, the director said.
The Lafayette Regional Airport Commission is also pushing for an additional hub to facilitate oil and gas workers who need flights to drilling sites in the Dakotas, Montana and Idaho, Roberts said.
“The oil and gas industry is really strong here in Louisiana, but it’s also supporting a lot of the activity that we see going on throughout the northern tier of the United States and throughout the world,” he said.
The new year also raises questions as to whether new Federal Aviation Administration regulations pertaining to pilot training, crew duty and crew rest will affect the airport, Robert said. Flight crews will be required to take additional rest between flights.
This year the airport will continue an aggressive campaign to encourage local travelers to “fly Lafayette.”
Roberts uses a “fair” versus “fare” comparison, which include driving mileage expenses, highway safety and overall travel time, to counter the benefits of flying out of larger airports. For example, he said, when Acadiana passengers consider driving to New Orleans for a cheaper fare, they should build in the additional costs in time and mileage of driving to and from New Orleans, higher parking fees and other costs.
Lafayette Airport Commission Chairman Matt Cruse said the airport’s improvements and expansion will make the facility more attractive to local travelers.
“We’d like to thank the travelers of Acadiana who chose Lafayette Regional Airport for their air travel needs,” Cruse said in a statement issued Wednesday morning. “We know every traveler has a choice when making travel plans and we are grateful so many are choosing to fly Lafayette. This is our fourth record-breaking year in a row and we look forward to continuing to make improvements in 2014 to make that choice even easier.”