Ridership up at Cape airport

Tuesday, December 18, 2001

Cape Girardeau Regional Airport was having a banner month in August in regards to the number of passengers, with a 35 percent increase from the previous year.

Then Sept. 11 happened, and numbers dropped 25 percent, leaving airport officials worried about long-term passenger fall-offs and what that might do to Federal Aviation Administration funding that often is dependent upon ridership.

But airport manager Bruce Loy said the latest figures show that the trend may be reversing itself, despite the fact that travel is down around the country.

In September, ridership was down from 582 in 2000 to 435 in 2001. But in October, ridership climbed slightly by 2 percent and then in November it rose by 24.1 percent from the previous year, despite an industry fraught with worry and newly imposed security rules. In November 2000 there were 518 riders while last month there were 643 riders.

"We're glad to see that," Loy said at Monday night's meeting of the Cape Girardeau City Council. "And relieved."

Loy offered several explanations, chief among them that Corporate Airlines now owns Trans World Express, which means TWE has been contracted through American Airlines since Dec. 2.

More connections

That means the airport now has a larger network, including 13 additional carriers who share their common route and fare structures for travel around the world.

"There's a connection to more destinations," Loy said.

Loy also said that while Cape Girardeau's airport provides the same security as larger airports, the lines are shorter. That means if they board in Cape Girardeau, they don't have to go through security again once they reach St. Louis.

"Once passengers have been checked in at Cape Girardeau, there are no further check-ins on connecting American Airline flights," Loy said.

Chuck Howell, president and chief executive officer for Corporate Airlines, said that with a 45 percent load factor, Cape Girardeau has recovered from the Sept. 11 incident faster than most stations in his system.

The council also approved the airport's $80,000 purchase of Air Evac's fuel farm and fuel inventory. Air Evac used to be the airport's fixed-based operator that offered flight training, chartered aircraft, services and hangar rental at the airport, as well as provided fueling services to all aircraft, including Trans World Express.

The city bought the fueling equipment -- two 10,000-gallon above-ground tanks, other equipment and the fuel inside -- and now will provide that service itself.

"We should be able to recoup that money for providing this service," Loy said.

Mayor Al Spradling III said that recent developments at the airport have been positive.

"I was pleased to see that the ridership numbers are up," Spradling said. "That will positively impact the city when it applies for additional FAA funds in the future."

He also said that the city's purchase of the fuel farm will mean uninterrupted service at the airport.

"It would have been hard to find someone to do this on an interim basis," he said.

smoyers@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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