Airport traffic up for a first in eight years
With 2013 showing the best growth of Green Airport passenger traffic in years, and striving to surpass 5 million passengers annually, Kelly Fredericks called on the community Thursday to give him data.
“I’m not asking you to give me money,” Fredericks told more than 300 people who turned out to the Rhode Island Convention Center to hear the Make It Happen action agenda.
Fredericks, the president and CEO of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC), was one of 23 presenters there to talk about projects and programs that came out of community workshops held in September 2012. The plan, named the Go Green Partnership, has targeted the growth of passenger traffic and cargo at the airport.
Fredericks asked the group to provide the data so RIAC can make the argument that the business is in Rhode Island and they should expand here.
Green has recorded one of its best years in terms of passenger traffic since 2007, when more than 5 million passengers were recorded.
In 2012, traffic was off 5.9 percent with a total of 3.6 million.
However, in the last year, with the addition of jetBlue service and some regular carriers flying larger aircraft, passenger counts increased. A total of 3,803,586 passengers were recorded for 2013, up 4.19 percent from 2012.
“We remain very optimistic that the best days are ahead for Green,” Fredericks said in a statement. “We are encouraged that more passengers prefer this facility, which was validated by our selection as the fourth Best Airport in the country and the Best Airport for Ease of Access in the latest Travel and Leisure poll.”
He said their focus was providing the best possible curb to gate experience to deliver a convenient travel option and their goal is to increase air service opportunities.
“The numbers are looking good,” said Patti Goldstein, RIAC vice president of marketing, yesterday.
She believes they reflect an improving economy and the path back to the 5 million Fredericks says is possible. Goldstein described the new partnership as an outgrowth of the Go Green Alliance started by the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce to advocate for a longer Green runway that could allow airlines to offer non-stop coast-to-coast and international service. The alliance was also instrumental in advocating changes at the airport, including valet parking and a full service restaurant.
Go Green was especially active following Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval of plans that include the extension of the airport’s main runway to 8,700 feet. The Warwick City Council initiated legal action questioning the action.
The chamber lobbied for the council to approve an agreement that addressed their concerns and drop the court appeal. That’s what happened and RIAC is on schedule to build the extension by December of 2017.
Goldstein said the partnership is with the Greater Providence Chamber, the Central Rhode Island Chamber and all other Rhode Island chambers. She said the information RIAC is seeking includes data on frequently traveled markets where people are using other airports because direct service isn’t available at Green. Also sought are the out-of-state locations of satellite or corporate offices, where access is especially important. Goldstein also said the partnership will work to get out the word of Green’s easy access and the amenities of the airport.
In a release, Dr. Kathleen Hittner, outgoing board chair for RIAC, said, “This is great news for T.F. Green and demonstrates that our airport is a preferred travel option for many passengers. I could not be more pleased to end my tenure as board chair with the best passenger numbers on record in eight years, and the runway extension approved and underway. I credit the dedication of our great board, employees, the air carriers and all our tenants that strive to make Green the fourth Best Airport in the country!”
Some highlights of the 2013 year-end numbers include: United Airlines posted a 19.76 percent increase for December; Delta Airlines recorded an increase of 13.25 percent in passenger volume for December; US Airways carried 8.9 percent more passengers for December, boosting year-end numbers to +1.71 percent. The airline was the only incumbent to record a year-end increase.
With the recently announced merger with American Airlines, there is greater opportunity for new service options in the future; Southwest carried 1.4 percent more passengers in December. Although seat capacity is down, the carrier remains the largest airline at Green, and JetBlue made a significant contribution to positive year-end numbers for Green. The yearly passenger count totaled 266,653 for this carrier since service began in late November of 2012.