Airport numbers still flying high




Boarding numbers at Garden City Regional Airport continue to shoot the moon, and are on pace for an even better year than last year, according to Rachelle Powell, aviation director.

"I think we'll be over 20,000. I would estimate we'll be near 23,000," Powell said.

Airport boardings jumped almost immediately after American Eagle began offering two daily flights between Garden City and Dallas/Fort Worth in April 2012. By early December, just eight months after the change to American Eagle, boardings already had surpassed the number recorded, 11,690, in all of 2011. The airport finished the year just shy of 18,000 boardings.

For the first seven months of 2013, the airport has recorded 13,726 passengers. Comparing the numbers between April and July of 2012 to those same months in 2013, boardings are continuing to show stellar numbers.

During those months in 2012, the first four months that American Eagle was operating, boardings were 5,548. For that same period this year, boardings were 8,423.

"I think American's service through Dallas is the reason," Powell said. "The ticket prices are fair and reasonable. It's a great flight. And I think more people are utilizing Garden City Regional Airport as their travel source when looking to fly."

Garden City's improvement also was recognized by a third party consultant that collects data on behalf of the Federal Aviation Administration. According to a Central Region Passenger Airports ranking for the year ending March 31, Garden City's domestic outbound passenger boardings rose from 10,900 to 18,920, a 73 percent change in one year.

The ranking puts Garden City 16th on the list — between Joplin, Mo., and Waterloo, Iowa, and several spots above nearby airports, including Hays (20th, 11,440), Dodge City (23rd, 7,230), and Liberal (24th, 6,820). Topping the list were large airports such as St. Louis, Kansas City, Omaha, Des Moines and Wichita. The Central Region includes Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.

"That gives us a good idea where we are. The ranking shows that we've definitely improved compared to other airports in the central region. We've jumped up quite a bit on that," Powell said.

The ranking doesn't provide any benefit other than allowing the airport to measure itself against other airports.

"It's just informational," she said. "You know, there's some competitiveness about where we are compared to other airports. It just shows how we're doing against others in the region. Our ranking has increased, and our numbers look great."

Overall, the health of the airport is good, Powell said. Currently, the airport is preparing for some fall construction projects that include building a snow equipment storage building, and making sign and light repairs around the airfield.

Powell said the passenger facilities charge requested a few months ago has passed through the approval process and will go into effect Oct. 1, which will add an extra $4.50 to passenger tickets.

The new fee is intended to generate money to help defray the costs for past FAA-approved airport improvements.

Garden City has 15 completed Airport Improvement Program projects totaling $770,628. Revenue from the passenger facilities charge would be used to reimburse the city for its past share paid on those projects. The fee could generate about $87,000 per year.

Past projects have included runway rehabilitation, taxiway widening, lighting, security enhancements and wildlife fencing.

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