The Quad-City International Airport saw its largest drop in passengers in six years last month because of several factors, including changes in destinations and airline capacity as well as multiple flight cancellations in April, airport officials said Tuesday.
Bruce Carter, the airport's aviation director, told the Rock Island County Metropolitan Airport Authority that enplanements were down 15 percent in April as compared with the same month last year. Total passengers — enplanements and deplanements combined — also are down 15 percent.
The airport reported 25,943 enplanements in April, compared with 30,513 last year. Total passengers are 52,576 in April, compared with 61,705 total passengers a year ago. For the calendar year, enplanements and total passengers are both down 7 percent year-to-date.
Carter said part of the decline stems from a change in destinations. A year ago the airport still had service to Washington, D.C., and Allegiant had six seasonal flights to Punta Gorda, Florida, in its schedule last April. Those two services accounted for more than 1,700 passengers in April 2016, he said.
"I think we're bottoming out," Carter said after the meeting. He also hinted at a new air service announcement to be made in the next two weeks, but declined to provide any specifics about the carrier or destination.
Carter added that airline counter staff have indicated a decline in international travel by area business travelers in the past month.
Cathie Rochau, the airport's marketing representative, said the last time the airport posted a decline of 15 percent, or higher, was October 2011, when enplanements fell 16 percent year-over-year. She said that decline was in the wake of the airport's loss of Atlanta service by AirTran. The low-fare carrier ended its Orlando-Moline service and pulled out of the Quad-City market in January 2012.
She added the April results also were impacted by weather at the major hubs as American and Delta both canceled two flights to Dallas-Fort Worth and Atlanta, respectively, and United was forced to cancel three flights to Chicago. In addition, she said collectively the airlines have cut about 4 percent of their capacity, or seats, in the local market as part of an industry reduction.
"There are a lot of factors to take into consideration in this particular comparison," she said. The Washington, D.C., flight and the Punta Gorda seasonal flights, added an additional 1,026 and estimated 671 passengers, respectively. "They all add up."
Carter also speculated that passengers are opting to drive to destinations in the Midwest. "Are they driving versus flying? We saw rental cars (rentals) are up."
The decline caused both Commissioner Jim Jannes and John Malvik to push for enplanements to be a major topic at the board's strategy planning meeting. "As a commission, we've got to look at our enplanements," Jannes said.
In other business, the authority:
- Tabled discussion on considering additional tax levies. Last month, staff told the authority that there are other items it could be levying for, under state statute, without a referendum or legislative change that would add $1 million to the airport budget. They include the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, unemployment, workers compensation, audit, Social Security and liability insurance.
Staff said these items already are being levied for by other area governments and other regional airports. It now is expected to be brought up at an internal affairs committee meeting in June.
- Unanimously approved a property and casualty insurance proposal with Alliant/Mesirow Insurance Services. The company's first vice president, Michael Alesia, told the authority that premium costs are decreasing 15.5 percent from $423,655 in 2017 to $357,941 for 2018.
- Renewed a three-year retainer with its consultant Trillion Aviation for $5,000/month. Two commissioners, Molly Foley and Jim Jannes, voted against the measure.