The Central Illinois Regional Airport annual report noted a significant increase in passenger traffic in 2018.
Airport Director Carl Olson reported a 9% increase in passenger traffic and an 18% increase in fuel sales, along with a new nonstop carrier to Denver and Orlando. He said he believes this increase is in both business and leisure flights. Additional growth came during the first two months of this year, when Olson said passenger traffic is typically at its lowest. Early to mid-summer is the period of highest travel traffic, which should provide another increase in passenger traffic and fuel sales, he said.
CIRA saw fewer flights but increased revenue from fuel sales. Olson said that is because airlines are now using higher capacity aircraft. The smallest jets flying to CIRA now have a 76-person capacity, and the largest aircraft have a 230-person capacity. Olson said the days of 50-seat regional jet service are over because the cost to operate them does not allow carriers sufficient margin.
The airport also received a perfect FAA and TSA inspection for the seventh time in the past nine years.
“An FAA inspector will come and literally live with us for two or three days, and look over the entire airport facility, all the infrastructure, the training records, the staffing, and actually go through all the daily airport records for every day of the year to see what was done, emergency response, fire rescue. This is a very involved process," said Olson.
Olson said CIRA finished in the black, financially.
"It was the Airport Authority's 11th consecutive year of operating positive financial results,” said Olson.
He also said the airport has been working since 2013 to improve infrastructure, particularly in the passenger terminal area, and add two additional lounges to the airport. One of these lounges will be reserved for mothers who are nursing. This project will be providing 2-3 dozen construction jobs for the community.
Olson said CIRA has also benefitted from increased freigh traffic, reflecting a national trend caused by consumers' appetite for two-day shipping and online shopping.
“When we were able to successfully attract FedEx in 2014-2015, with a public-private partnership, the goal was they were going to bring over three markets with the goal of increasing that to six markets in the future. Now they've been with us for about four years, and they're already up to five markets. So it's actually ahead of schedule on the growth plan. It's going very well and traffic is up for cargo," said Olson.
Listen to Olson's interview with GLT's Charlie Schlenker below:
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