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Arnold Palmer Regional Airport focuses on busy routes

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Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, 11:24 p.m.
 

Passenger numbers are keeping Westmoreland County Airport Authority officials optimistic despite the recent announcement by Spirit Airlines that the carrier is dropping direct flights to Dallas from Arnold Palmer Regional Airport.

Jeff Minkovich, operations manager for Latrobe Airline Services, reported to the authority board that even without numbers from Dallas-Forth Worth flights, the Unity airport handled 1,735 more passengers in January 2014 than in January 2013.

A total of 17,760 passengers passed through the terminal in January, compared to 12,418 in January 2013, Minkovich said.

In April, Spirit Airlines will discontinue the flights three times per week to Texas, which started eight months ago. The flights had just 1,458 passengers outbound, compared with daily flights with 3,811 passengers to Orlando and 3,847 to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Executive Director Gabe Monzo said if Spirit does not add other destinations, the airline could increase the frequency of flights to Florida and Myrtle Beach, S.C., which will resume seasonal service three days per week on Thursday.

“I think we still have the capability of rising in other areas,” he said. “Even the cities that we have, increasing capacity in those cities, and we'll see how it goes.”

Minkovich reported that in the first 10 days of February, Spirit had 6,086 passengers, compared with last year's 4,171, despite the airline's switch to smaller planes.

Spirit previously had flown Airbus A320 planes capable of carrying 178 passengers and are now using the Airbus A319, which can hold 145.

“We have aircraft with less capacity, and we're still over by 1,915 (passengers) just for the first 10 days of February, which are pretty outstanding numbers,” Minkovich said.

Board chairman Oland “Dodo” Caterna said even after the Dallas flights end, the airport will continue to thrive, commending workers for their cooperation and customer service.

“We do everything possible,” he said. “People out there (at the ticket counter) do an excellent job; they try to treat people right and try to be congenial with everybody, and they do that so well.”

Monzo shared rankings that placed Arnold Palmer Regional Airport at No. 6 in growth among similar-sized airports in the last year with an almost 89 percent increase, according to a consulting group using federal Department of Transportation passenger numbers.

For all airports in the eastern region, from September 2012 to September 2013, the Unity airport surpassed State College while remaining at No. 29 in passenger numbers since June. Pittsburgh International ranks at No. 8.

“I think we're in the driver's seat with the cities that we have,” Monzo said.

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or sfederoff@tribweb.com.

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