BANGOR, Maine — Big jumps in passenger numbers at Bangor International Airport during the last half of 2010 led to an overall increase of 4 percent from the previous year, but those numbers may not necessarily carry over to 2011.
“We were concerned that passenger enplanements would suffer all year, but the airlines responded to the region’s strong demand by increasing capacity for the last several months,” BIA Director Rebecca Hupp said. “Airline traffic has increased nationally in 2010, but rising fuel prices again threaten capacity as we start the new year.”
Still, BIA has reasons for optimism as the year progresses. After topping out with 480,000 passengers in 2005 and bottoming out to 350,000 passengers in 2008, things have been progressing steadily upward. From 2008 to 2009, the number of air travelers flying in and out of Bangor jumped 6 percent, followed by the 4 percent spike last year.
“It’s all tied to capacity,” Marketing Director Risteen Masters said. “As we’ve talked to airlines, we kept saying ‘our planes are full.’ And they have listened.”
In years past, the Bangor airport had many airlines to spread the passenger load. Now just three airlines — US Airways, Delta Air Lines and Allegiant Air — share the market after Northwest merged with Delta and Continental Airlines pulled out of Bangor in 2009.
US Airways carries half the market share, followed by Delta at 32 percent and Allegiant at 20 percent. Delta and Northwest experienced significant increases from 2009 to 2010, but Allegiant dropped by about 6.5 percent.
“We’re still working on new service, as well as increasing capacity on routes we already have. We do those things in tandem,” Masters said. “We have had some commitments for increased service this summer, but that was before fuel prices started to go up.”
BIA recently was awarded a $500,000 federal grant to lure service by United Airlines to a major hub in either Washington, D.C., or Chicago. The grant can be used to reduce an airline’s risk in entering a new market or for marketing and advertising to support the service.
BIA used a similar grant awarded in 2005 to add Allegiant service to Sanford, Fla., near Orlando. Since Allegiant came to Bangor in 2007, the carrier has been successful and has expanded its offerings to St. Petersburg, Fla., and has added flights.
“We’re talking to United, but it could be several months before they make a decision,” Masters said.
BIA offers year-round nonstop flights to Detroit, New York, Orlando-Sanford, Philadelphia and Tampa-St. Petersburg and seasonal flights to Washington, D.C.