After three straight years of passenger growth, Dane County Regional Airport showed a slight decline in 2015, according to federal data.
Figures collected by officials at the Madison airport, however, indicated the opposite: a 1.3 percent increase in passengers.
According to data published by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Dane County Regional had 1.63 million passengers either arrive or depart on scheduled domestic air routes in 2015, down nearly 8,000 from 2014, or a 0.5 percent drop.
Those figures could be incomplete and subject to revision by airlines, Dane County Regional Airport marketing and communications director Brent McHenry said.
The airport's internal data, collected directly from the airlines, showed an increase of more than 21,000 passengers in 2015, to 1.69 million either boarding or arriving through MSN.
Nationally, the number of domestic air passengers increased by 5 percent in 2015, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics market database.
It wasn't uncommon, however, for an airport the size of Dane County Regional to show passenger count declines in 2015 in the federal data.
Dane County Regional ranked 92nd in the U.S. for total number of domestic passengers in 2015, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Among those ranked 91st through 100th, four had a decrease in passengers. For the airports ranked 81st through 100th, nine saw a decline.
Milwaukee's General Mitchell International Airport, which had a marked decrease in passengers in 2012 and 2013, continued to hold fairly steady in 2015, showing a 0.1 percent increase over 2014's total.
At $522.24, the Madison airport had a higher average fare in the fourth quarter of 2015 than any of the others in the top 117 of the passenger volume rankings, according to a Bureau of Transportation Statistics sample. Among the top 200 U.S. airports in passenger counts, Dane County Regional had the 15th-highest average fare.
Dane County Regional tends to have higher average fares because it has only a small number of daily flights on low-cost carriers, airport officials have said. At an airport like Milwaukee's, more flights on Southwest and Frontier can give other airlines more reason to discount their flights.
The average fare at Milwaukee's Mitchell International in the fourth quarter of 2015 was $356.41.
Businesses like Verona-based health care giant Epic Systems have been a major contributor to Dane County Regional's health, and business travelers generally prioritize convenience over cost, according to a survey by the Global Business Travel Association.
The growth in passengers nationally helped fuel an after-tax net profit of $25.6 billion in 2015 for U.S. scheduled passenger airlines, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported. That was a 241 percent increase over 2014's net profit. Analysts also cited lower fuel costs and higher revenues from bag fees in explaining the profit spike.
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