BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — The North Central West Virginia Airport is already ahead of schedule for 2019, seeing an increase of 1,700 enplanements for the first quarter of the year.
As of March 31, the total number of enplanements was at 9,211, NCWV Airport Director Rick Rock said.
“As of this past week, we’ve already had 10,000 enplanements for the year, and we’re getting ready to go into our busy season,” Rock said. “It’s trending upward, and we couldn’t be more excited about it.”
In 2018, the North Central West Virginia Airport had 35,000 total enplanements for the year — more than any year since 1978.
With that in mind, Rock and other members of the Benedum Airport Authority set a goal of 45,000 for 2019, which he feels is easily achievable.
“We’ve got great airline partners. They do a good job, and that’s the key,” he said. “Good reasonable prices, good schedule, good destinations, and a vibrant economy is working out very well for our airport.”
And those services keep growing.
Starting May 4, the airport will begin to offer flights via United to both Dulles International Airport and Chicago O’Hare International Airport seven days a week.
“I’m very excited about that,” Rock said. “It helps complete the schedule we do have. We’ll have 14 round trips per week on our daily service, so that is great for network connectivity, bringing people into West Virginia, and sending people on business trips and leisure trips.”
Allegiant will be offering additional flights to both Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and to Orlando-Sanford.
Flights to Myrtle will be on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, while Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays will be to Orlando.
“That’ll be 20 round trips a week out of the North Central West Virginia Airport. That’s just a lot of activity, and we look forward to just everyone coming and utilizing their airport,” Rock said.
Having the need to add these additional services is a sign of how well utilized the North Central West Virginia Airport is.
“I mean, you don’t get opportunities for growth if you’re not filling the seats that you do, having success and growing the market,” Rock said. “We definitely have a very good market that we’re starting to see and getting a lot of people coming from a wide radius to utilize the airport.”
Many passengers through the airport are repeat customers.
“People are happy with what they’re getting, and that’s the reason why we’re seeing growth,” Rock said.
Rock credits that to the many advantages a regional airport has over an airport in a larger market.
“By utilizing your local airport, these opportunities can grow themselves by just the utilization of it,” he said. “We had a lot of leakage to Pittsburgh in the past, and we’re still going to have some but we wanted to reduce that and reverse that.”
While Bridgeport continues to grow, other municipal airports are struggling.
In March, the city of Morgantown was served documents from the U.S. Department of Transportation, notifying the city that its airport was included on a list of those scheduled to lose Essential Air Service (EAS) eligibility.
Morgantown’s EAS provider is Southern Express Airways.
“I think that people are just more familiar with the United name, and they’re more comfortable flying in a 50-seat jet,” Rock said. “We just try to do the best we can and provide the best product, and it seems to be working in our favor.”
Part of constantly working to provide the best product is keeping the airport terminal and runway not only functional but efficient.
“The flights we have to Florida and Mrytle Beach are on a 186-passenger aircraft, so we just needed additional room to make it a little more comforatble for our passengers, relieve some of the conjestion that wer’e having,” Rock said. “We’ve expanded our secure holding area, which fits 100 people inside once they’ve been screened.”
Construction of a new TSA building is also underway, with equipment installation planned for May.
“We’re bringing in new technology to screen bags and process a little bit more efficiently behind the scenes. That’ll definitely help with screening security and the effectiveness of that process,” Rock said.
The low bid for that project was $88,350.
“We’re also going to restripe the runway. We just got the bids on that this week and approved the contractor,” Rock said. “We’re also building a new taxiway that will help out the flight school of Fairmont State University.”
For more information on the North Central West Virginia Airport and its services, click here.