After seeing an 8 percent decline in passengers for the month of December, the Quad-City International Airport ended the full year down 2 percent, airport officials said Tuesday.
Bruce Carter, aviation director, said the monthly decline came as airlines reduced their seat capacity by 15 percent. He said the reductions were in smaller planes or decreased flight frequency.
In December, the airport enplaned a total of 25,977 passengers, which was down from 28,315 a year ago. For the year, the airport enplaned 359,752 passengers, which compared to 367,048 a year ago.
Total passengers, which include enplanements and deplanements, also fell 8 percent and 2 percent for the month and the year, respectively. Total passengers for 2016 were 717,486, which compared to 730,292 for 2015. The statistics were reported to the Rock Island County Metropolitan Airport Authority at its meeting Tuesday.
Even with a year-end 2 percent decline, Carter said, "We're holding our own. The shining star is we're only down 2 percent for the year."
He said other regional airports are seeing steeper declines.
But the passenger decline, particularly the December results, caused Commissioner Jim Jannes to share his concerns.
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"I don't understand how we can decline 8 percent (in December)," he said. "I can't fathom why, but it's something we have to address."
Carter said ticket pricing and "a lot of people driving to Chicago" to fly out are some of the factors. The 15 percent decline in capacity, he said, "is out of our control."
In addition, the significant snowstorm in early December caused six departures to Chicago to be canceled, impacting passenger numbers for the month.
Jannes said the passenger decline is "something we must address in our strategic planning meeting."
That meeting has not yet been scheduled.
Both Carter and Angela Burch, the airport's finance manager, said that despite the 8 percent enplanement decline, other revenue areas did not follow suit. Parking lot revenues, rental car fees and concessions still were up last month.
"I feel fortunate we have a low-fare carrier and three other carriers," Carter said after the meeting. "We've got to work with the existing carriers and not lose any more frequency."
Among the carriers, he said, American Eagle/Envoy was the only one to post an increase for December and the year. He attributed the growth to the Dallas-Fort Worth service.
He said the airline switched to using two 76-seat planes a day to Dallas/Fort Worth out of the Quad-Cities vs. three 44-seat planes, a net increase in capacity.