Airport's December Passenger Totals Prove Enough to Establish All-Time Mark for Flying Out of Bridgeport

By Jeff Toquinto on January 16, 2020 via Connect-Bridgeport.com

After months of saying it was likely going to happen, on Wednesday it was announced that it did happen. With the final numbers in, 2019 proved to be a record-setting year for the North Central West Virginia Airport.
 
NCWV Airport Director Rick Rock told members of the Airport Authority, the airport’s governing body, that more passengers flew out of the Bridgeport facility than any year in its history. The total surpassed last year’s mark by several thousand.
 
With the December numbers in the book, the airport had 42,829 passengers – or enplanements – in 2019. That easily surpassed last year’s total of 38,296 as well as the previous all-time mark of 42,128 set decades ago in 1979.
 
“I’m happy to say we eclipsed the all-time record,” Rock told those gathered. “… It’s a 12 percent increase over last year and we’re showing continued growth.”
 
The main driver for traffic continues to be the Allegiant destination flights that are nearly year-round from Bridgeport to Orlando, as well as the summer flights locally to Myrtle Beach. Those two flights were responsible for 20,278 passengers.
 
The airport also continued to get a boost from charter flights – almost exclusively West Virginia University athletics and opponents primarily from the Big 12 Conference. In 2019 there were 3,634 passengers flying out of the city as the result of a charter flight.
 
A huge reason for the increase in numbers is the continued growth of the daily flight service by United Express through SkyWest. The airport saw nearly 19,000 passengers (18,917) utilize the daily jet service to hubs in Chicago and Washington, D.C.
 
The increase in the daily service is staggering when compared to previous attempts to get a reliable daily service provider through the FAA’s Essential Flight Service subsidy program that provides funds to rural airports. In 2017, the airport had just 2,431 individuals utilize the daily service that was in place, which frequently was out of commission and led to individuals not using the service.
 
Harrison County Commissioner and Authority member David Hinkle pointed out that the gap between Allegiant and the daily service is almost non-existent.
 
“(From 2017) to 2018 you made a huge jump,” said Hinkle about going from 2,431 passengers on daily service to 16,469 with the arrival of United. “What I find interesting … is our commercial flights versus our Allegiant flights. We’re really closing the gap. That impressed me the most.”
 
Hinkle asked Rock about the potential reasoning for the numbers nearly being 50-50.
 
“It’s what we said from the beginning. If we were able to establish a reliable air carrier, and United allowed us to get that, then your passengers get confidence in your service,” said Rock. “We had to have a schedule with a good and a reliable carrier. SkyWest brought all of those things to us.”
 
Rock told the board that he doesn’t think the airport is close to peaking yet. He also discussed plans to add yet another daily flight for the airport. More on that in the days ahead on Connect-Bridgeport.
 
The Wednesday meeting of the Airport Authority was a relatively short one. The meeting began with Rock unveiling a wooden handmade United States flag presented to the Authority by members of the airport staff.
 
Editor's Note: Top photo shows passengers getting onto an Allegiant flight to Orlando, while a charter flight bringing in the Kansas Jayhawks basketball team is shown in the second photo. Bottom photo shows Rick Rock prior to the Pledge of Allegiance unveiling a git to the Airport Authority from the airport staff.


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