RENO — Airports both locally and internationally are claiming that passenger traffic is up to pre-recession levels, and the local airport is adding flights faster than the national average.
The Air Transportation Association (ATA) announced Tuesday that the Reno-Tahoe International Airport ranks No. 1 nationally in the percentage of flights it has added since the third quarter of 2009. The international arm of the ATA also said in a written release that international scheduled traffic statistics for May showed an 11.7 percent increase in passenger traffic and a 34.3 percent jump in freight demand compared to May 2009.
In the past nine months, Reno-Tahoe International has added 14 new and three seasonal flights to its schedule. The ATA reports that Reno’s 14.7 percent increase in flights since the third quarter 2009 leads the nation. Second in the nation is Detroit Metro with a 13.4 percent increase and Milwaukee Mitchell Field at 12.3 percent.
“Airports are an early economic indicator and we hope this is a sign of more good things to come for our region,” said Krys Bart, president and CEO of Reno-Tahoe International Airport.
The report also states that many airports in Western states are still plagued by percentage decreases in the number of flights. San Jose is down 12.4 percent, Ontario 8.8 percent, Oakland 3.6 percent and Las Vegas is down 2.5 percent.
The local industry hit its low in early 2009 when it experienced a 15 percent decrease in passenger traffic.
An August 2008 Reno-Tahoe International employee newsletter let staff know just how dismal the situation really was.
“Here at Reno-Tahoe (RNO), the airport had a 13 percent decline in total passengers during the month of August 2008, as compared to August 2007,” the newsletter stated. “This represents the lowest monthly number of total passengers recorded for RNO during the month of August since 1992. And August also marks the fifth straight month this year that total passenger count has declined by 12 percent or higher. Year-to-date RNO traffic has dipped 9.1 percent to 3.17 million total passengers or 273,310 fewer passengers than one year earlier.”
National and international projections at the time were not much brighter.
“North America will be the only region in the black but the expected $300 million profit is less than 1 percent of their revenue,” said Giovanni Bisignani, the International Air Transportation Association’s director general and CEO in a statement issued in December 2008.
However, the international associations’s tune has changed since that time. Official statements from the organization now claim growth is in store for airports.
“Demand rebounded strongly in May following the impact of the European volcanic ash fiasco in April,” Bisignani said in a release issued Tuesday. “Passenger traffic is now 1 percent above pre-recession levels, while the freight market is 6 percent bigger.”
“We held 53 business targeted meetings with airlines last year in an effort to add flights and maintain our air service,” Bart said. “We decided that the best approach to the downturn was to go on the offensive. We leveraged relationships and made very strong business cases as to why Reno-Tahoe deserved more service.”
The result is 17 new flights. Reno-Tahoe now offers 72 daily departures, including 15 non-stop flights and one-stop service to almost anywhere in the world.