More seats filled at BIA

Posted April 07, 2009, at 1:25 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Passenger statistics at Bangor International Airport increased 10 percent this February over the previous year, bucking downward trends at other regional airports in New England and across the country.

“The passenger increase was most likely due to increased passenger demand sparked by decreased fares and an increase in nonstop flights to [BIA’s] top destinations,” airport director Rebecca Hupp said.

Airlines have offered decreased fares in recent months to curb falling demand in a weak economy, but in most cases it hasn’t generated results. Traffic at Portland International Jetport was down 6.8 percent in February and Logan International Airport in Boston had a decrease of 17 percent that month.

Nationwide, the decrease was 8.5 percent, which makes Bangor’s numbers stand out even more.

BIA is served by five airline carriers, all but one of which showed an increase in use in February. Continental Airlines passenger statistics jumped by more than 100 percent over the previous year and Allegiant Air, Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines showed modest increases. US Airways numbers decreased by about 10 per-cent.

Hupp said the increase in the number of flights offered by Allegiant and the addition of a Continental flight played a roll in the positive statistics.

The February numbers were a stark contrast to the 12.4 percent decrease reported by BIA in January. Additionally, the airport’s load factor — a measure of how full a plane is — was about 66 percent in January. In February, that number was 73.4 percent.

“Load factor will continue to increase because airlines are going more with smaller planes,” said Cynthia Hardy at Bangor Travel Services. “But Bangor still doesn’t have the draw of [low-cost carriers] JetBlue or AirTran.”

Since peaking in the final months of 2005, BIA had seen its passenger statistics drop steadily to their lowest point in more than eight years late last year.

February’s numbers may not signify a new trend, but they remain encouraging.

“We’re optimistic and our informal numbers for March look positive as well,” Hupp said. “We hope this trend will continue.”

Hardy, however, cautioned that fare prices — which ultimately determine passenger statistics at any airport — are dependent on the deregulated airline industry.

“I compare them to the stock market; things fluctuate so much,” she said. “They have the ability to see and monitor what is being purchased and what is not and can adjust their prices accordingly.”

Bangor International Airport is a full-service regional airport that offers daily flights to Boston, Detroit, New York, Newark, Orlando and Philadelphia, along with seasonal flights to Atlanta, Minneapolis and Washington, D.C. The airport is operated by the city of Bangor but is supported solely through its own generated revenue.

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