BIA passenger numbers up 6 percent in ’09

Posted March 10, 2010, at 8:47 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Despite a weak December, passenger numbers at Bangor International Airport increased by about 6 percent in 2009 over the previous year, and the first two months of 2010 have shown signs of promise as well.

Airport Director Rebecca Hupp and marketing director Risteen Masters presented updated passenger statistics on Wednesday to the City Council’s recently resurrected airport committee.

Although the last month of 2009 saw numbers drop by 7.7 percent over December 2008, BIA finished 2009 with a total of 372,061 passengers flying in and out of Bangor, compared to 351,807 for all of 2008.

So far in 2010, January saw a passenger increase of 10.6 percent over the previous year, and the numbers for February were up by 1.1 percent.

“We’ll take it,” Masters said of any increases. “In the face of reduced capacity and industry turmoil, that’s a good sign. The demand is there.”

However, Masters cautioned that until the economy improves drastically, airlines are not likely to increase capacity.

BIA absorbed the loss of Continental Airlines last year by increasing service through Allegiant Air, which provides nonstop flights to two destinations in Florida. US Airways also showed increases throughout the years to offset steady drop-offs by both Delta and Northwest, two airlines that have merged.

Although Allegiant flights have been popular — passengers nearly doubled from February 2008 to February 2009 — there isn’t a ton of room for growth. The current load factor (a measure of how full a plane is) hovers around 90 percent for Allegiant flights. Load factors for other carriers range from 60 to 85 percent.

Passenger numbers at BIA steadily decreased from a high-water mark of about 480,000 in 2005 to only about 350,000 in 2008, but the numbers began to rebound in 2009.

BIA offers daily flights to Detroit, Philadelphia, New York, Orlando, Fla., and St. Petersburg, Fla., through its four main carriers. The airport is governed by the city of Bangor but is operated through an enterprise fund generated by its own revenues rather than taxpayer support.

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