PITTSTON TWP. — As the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport administration continues its search for a carrier to replace Allegiant Air, passenger boardings decreased for the third straight month.
At Thursday’s meeting of the Bi-county Airport Board, airport Executive Director Carl Beardsley reported that passenger numbers in March were down by 14.4 percent compared to March 2017, declining from 21,054 last year to 18,012 this year.
Beardsley said the main reasons for the decline were the loss of Allegiant’s direct flights to Florida — which ended when the carrier left the airport in January — and 31 departing flights canceled due to inclement weather.
“Mother Nature wasn’t kind to us in March,” Beardsley told the board. “But our load factors are strong — planes are being filled.”
Beardsley said American Airlines has added a fourth round-trip flight to Charlotte that is expected to increase weekly seat occupancy by 27.9 percent by May 1. American will also begin two new flights to Chicago on June 7.
He said United Airlines is adding another flight to Chicago O’Hare Airport that will boost occupied seats by 84 percent. Beardsley also reported that Delta Airlines added a third round-trip flight to Detroit that will see a 36.3 percent increase in weekly seating.
Beardsley said Regional Sky began its twice-daily, weekday nonstop flights to Pittsburgh on April 23. Jim Gallagher, Regional Sky’s co-owner, reported that 18 passengers were booked.
In a related issue, parking revenue at the airport was down $11,230 for March. Beardsley said that was a direct result of the flights canceled by weather.
New Florida options?
Luzerne County Manager C. David Pedri, a member of the airport board, asked Beardsley for an update on negotiations with airlines to replace Allegiant’s direct Florida flights. Beardsley said he is constantly searching for another carrier who can offer such service.
“We’re always looking for opportunities,” Beardsley said. “You have to prove yourself as a better option in the market. Allegiant did very well here — their flights were always full. So, we have a strong case to present.”
Beardsley said if travelers are seeking flights to Florida — especially Orlando — they should inquire at Boscov’s travel department. He said the department store chain offers 18 flights per year from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to Orlando and many of them include deals on hotels and/or car rentals.
“Boscov’s offers some great options for those travelers,” Beardsley said.
He added that April’s numbers are up so far, and it should be a good month, barring any unforeseen weather issues.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.