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Palmer airport's status soars

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Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Unity is ranked among the top airports in the country, officials said on Tuesday.

The airport's increasing passenger numbers caused it to soar higher on two ranking lists.

For the first time in recent memory, the airport is ranked among the top 500 passenger airports in the country — flying in at No. 219, based on the number of outbound passengers, said Gabe Monzo, executive director of the Westmoreland County Airport Authority.

The ranking was compiled using U.S. Department of Transportation numbers by Oregon-based Sixel Consulting Group.

Pittsburgh International is ranked at No. 43 with 3.3 million passengers from March 2012 to March 2013.

Latrobe flew 91,420 passengers, a 400 percent increase from March 2011 to March 2013 because of Spirit Airlines service that began in February 2011.

Another report ranked Arnold Palmer airport at No. 33 among airports in the eastern region using those same outbound numbers, the authority learned at its meeting on Tuesday.

The report from aviation consultants Mead & Hunt Inc., released every six months for the Federal Aviation Administration, saw the Unity airport go up two places, from No. 35, just 2,540 passengers behind Erie's airport.

“We're moving up, so it's a great thing,” Monzo said.

Pennsylvania has 133 public-use airports and heliports, including 15 with commercial service. Pittsburgh International is ranked at No. 8 in the region.

Authority Chairman Don Rossi said 1,000 people per day are flying into and departing from the Unity airport.

“We're growing at a very rapid rate and we're very young, we're an infant in the system,” he said.

The airport is beginning to update its master plan, which is meant to guide the authority for 20 years. It was last reworked in 2001.

Rossi asked the authority to consider the direction of the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport.

In July, 30,165 passengers used the airport. The total for the first six months of the year reached 144,967 passengers — only 1,689 behind the entire total for 2012.

“We don't want to build on ‘ifs,' we want to build on solid ground,” he said. “We allowed this to grow and happen for the community's sake, and they're using it.”

Jeff Minkovich, operations manager for Latrobe Airline Services, reported that Spirit Airlines has awarded the airport the Crystal Award for customer service for the third time.

“We're very grateful Spirit acknowledges the staff here is doing a wonderful job providing outstanding customer service to Spirit passengers,” he said.

The award, given quarterly, takes into account the training, customer service and on-time performance of the 35 employees that provide ramp and customer services.

“Everybody has an integral part in making that happen,” Minkovich said.

In other business, solicitor Donald Snyder reported the authority has closed a $15,000 deal with Westmoreland Aviation to sell the building at 148 Aviation Lane where the flight school operates at the airport. Owners of the school are considering an expansion, Monzo said.

The authority will retain ownership of the land.

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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