Airport had a solid 2018

News File Photo This April 2016 photo from The News archives shows a plane being loaded at the Alpena County Regional Airport.

ALPENA –To say it was busy at Alpena County Regional Airport last year may be an understatement.

The activity at the airport exceeded its 10,000-enplanement goal and ensures the airport a $1 million essential air service subsidy from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Not only were there many people waiting to board or exit flights, but there was also a great deal of construction for the new terminal and other projects.

On Friday, Airport Manager Steve Smigelski released the final enplanement numbers of last year and the total easily surpassed the tally from 2017. According to Smigelski, there were 11,852 enplanements, including charter passengers. That total doesn’t include charter numbers for November and December, so the actual total will tick up slightly.

In 2017, there were 10,858 enplanements, meaning 2018 saw an at least 9-percent increase.

An enplanement is a passenger who has paid for his or her air travel.

Smigelski said a pricing restructure made by SkyWest Airlines in late 2017 contributed to the increase in enplanements for the past two years. He said that, once ticket prices fell, enplanments rose.

“We started off slowly in 2017 and then, when the new rates took effect in October, things took off and we have been up and beat the prior months and year ever since,” he said. “We owe SkyWest a big tip of the cap for doing that. I think numbers will continue to improve, because of the prices and excitement about the new terminal, the schedule and the lower rates.”

SkyWest took over Alpena services from Delta Airlines in 2012.

December, which is typically one of the slower months of the year, was strong in 2018. Smigelski said there was a total of 936 enplanements, which easily surpassed the 767 from December 2017. Smigelski said there were several months that are normally slow but were much busier last year.

In 2013, the airport recorded nearly 16,000 enplanements and, in 2014, 12,592. However, those numbers were inflated because Delta officials realized Alpena was being credited with enplanements it wasn’t supposed to.

So, in 2015, numbers slipped becauase of that readjustment. In 2016, the airport only had 9,183 enplanements, which would have made it inelegible for the $1 million, but a one-time allocation from the federal government was granted to aiports which didn’t reach the goal, so long as those airports had 10,000 enplanements in 2012.

Since then, Alpena’s numbers have been on a steady climb.

The $1 million from FAA is always much-needed and put to good use by the county. Smigelski said the funding can be used for airport improvement projects, such as runway repairs or painting. He said equipment or vehicles can also be purchased with the money.

“We can’t use it for salaries or operations, just things that will be improvements,” Smigelski said. “We are going to use this to purchase our runway sweeper that we need.”

As for the terminal project, crews have been making progress and an old hangar on the site where the new facility will be built has been demolished and removed.

Smigelski said work was going smoothly, but the recent snow and ice storms have slowed the progress somewhat. If all goes according to plan, the new terminal will be complete and open by the end of this year.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpeanews.com.

Airport Enplanements

A look at non-charter plane tickets at the Alpena County Regional Airport in recent years:

2012: 12,650

2013: 15,893 *

2014: 12,592

2015: 10,409

2016: 9,183

2017: 10,322

2018: 11,174

* In some years before 2015, enplanement included some that should not have been included, making the numbers inflated.

Source: Airport officials