After three years of growing passenger counts, Gainesville Regional Airport announced Monday that it reached an all-time high for enplanements in 2015, breaking the record set in 1990.
The airport reported 217,355 enplanements — or departures — an increase of 892 over the previous record of 216,463 in 1990 and a more than 2 percent increase over 2014.
Enplanements for all U.S. air carriers were up 3.9 percent for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2015, with 791,929 departures compared to 762,367 in the prior fiscal year, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
Gainesville enplanements hit a low of 133,437 in calendar year 2009 and have climbed every year since, with 63 percent more departing passengers last year.
Airport spokeswoman Laura Aguiar credited the growth to the economic recovery, the addition of American Airlines flights at the airport in late 2010, airfares that are more competitive with Jacksonville International Airport and “the good things going on in the business community.”
She sited recent pressure from the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce to go after more destinations and more carriers as an indicator of growing demand from business travelers.
American added more flights and larger planes during the holidays, helping push the annual passenger count to the record.
In October, American/US Airways merged their booking systems. That led more of American’s loyal passengers to take a look at the Charlotte, North Carolina, route that previously belonged to US Airways, boosting traffic to that city, Aguiar said. American’s Miami route continues to be the weakest of the three destinations, she said.
For the fiscal year ending September 30, Delta flights to Atlanta accounted for 59.7 percent of the airport’s enplanements with flights 88 percent full. US Airways to Charlotte accounted for 28.7 percent of passengers with flights 85 percent full, while American to Miami accounted for 11.5 percent of the passengers with flights 76 percent full.
Silver Airways — a rideshare carrier for connecting United flights — stopped offering service to Orlando in August. The regional carrier previously accounted for about 4 percent of the airport’s traffic.
Gainesville Regional had seven carriers when it set the prior record in 1990. The former Eastern Airlines left in 1991 and US Airways left two years later. Aguiar previously told The Sun that passenger counts took another dip in 1997 when Delta moved from mainline jets to the less popular turboprops out of the airport.
With the American/US Airways merger, Gainesville now has two carriers offering three routes.
Airport officials will be trying to lure more carriers during an aviation conference in February, Aguiar said.
The passenger growth will help the airport make the case to carriers and in seeking grant funds to expand the terminal, CEO Allan Penksa said in a news release. Further growth could also help increase the number of agents assigned by the Transportation Security Administration.
That would help people get through security faster and hopefully provide enough female agents to handle requests for same-sex pat-downs that can slow down the line, Aguiar said.
Original article can be found here: http://www.gainesville.com