PITTSTON TWP. — Despite the area’s worst snow storm on record, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport had its best March in history — ridership is up and more good news could be coming soon.
Carl Beardsley Jr., airport director, reported that 21,054 passengers boarded planes at the airport — the highest number ever recorded since the airport began keeping such records in 1947.
“The airport really shined in March,” Beardsley told the airport board. “That number represents a 13.8 percent increase over March 2016, when there were 18,499 enplanements.”
Beardsley attributed the increase to American Airline’s daily service to Charlotte, North Carolina. He said when compared to March 2015, ridership is up even higher — by 17 percent — and he credits American’s increase of daily service to Charlotte and Allegiant’s twice weekly service to Tampa/St. Petersburg, Florida.
Beardsley said had the snow storm not shut down travel — all flights were cancelled on March 14 and only 30 percent were able to get out on March 15 — the numbers would be even higher.
Beardsley also announced that Delta Airlines will make an additional flight — five times per week — to Detroit out of the airport. That could get the ridership numbers to rise even more, he said.
Beardsley said the airport is also targeting other destinations and an announcement could be coming soon.
“We can’t make anything public until we have firm agreements with the airlines,” he said.
In his performance report, Beardsley noted that American flights were up 27.6 percent; Delta was up 12.8 percent; and Allegiant increased by 1 percent. United Airlines numbers were down by 8.1 percent, he said. Charter flights also increased by 5.9 percent.
“We are really very proud of these numbers,” Beardsley said after the meeting. “They reflect the hard work of our entire team here at the airport.”
Beardsley said the airport has seen an influx of passengers from outside Luzerne and Lackawanna counties,
“And it’s been a solid mix of leisure and business travelers,” he said.
Tim McGinley, chairman of the airport board and a member of Luzerne County Council, said Beardsley report was welcome news.
“This shows that more and more people are using our airport and the services we provide,” McGinley said. “It’s great to see how ridership keeps building.”
In other business:
• The airport board approved its 2017 budget totalling $6.1 million, an increase over 2016’s budget of $5.8 million. Luzerne County Council representative Rick Williams voted against the budget, saying it was a protest vote. Williams wants to see the airport stand on its own financially without requiring contributing funds from the two member counties.
• Reviewed the plans for the NEPA Airshow 2017, set for Aug. 12 and 13, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days.
• Heard updates on all capital improvement projects — extension of Hangar Road, demolition of the old terminal building, parking garage maintenance, relocation of the TSA checkpoint, and rehabilitation and extension of taxiways.