ALPENA - In a year when there were a lot of questions surrounding who would be providing air service at Alpena County Regional Airport it would be easy to believe the number of enplanements for 2012 would suffer. That was not the case, however, as the airport posted 12,654 enplanements for the year.
New airline service provider SkyWest took over flights to and from the airport in September and according to Airport Manager Billi McRoberts each month after SkyWest began operations monthly year-over-year numbers increased. She said when she received 2012 totals on Thursday she was somewhat surprised by how high the number was.
"I think the number of enplanements are somewhat higher than maybe we were anticipating because I figured we would get off to a slow start because of the situation and then the change," McRoberts said. "Since SkyWest has taken over though, the numbers have increased each month. I think there are several reasons for it."
McRoberts said she thinks people have realized the cost of flying with SkyWest from Alpena is reasonable and the option of traveling to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is an attractive option to catch connecting flights. McRoberts said she also believes residents know they must support the new airline, so a situation similar to the Delta Airlines fiasco doesn't occur. She said it is that reason that leads her to suspect numbers for this year will be solid as well.
"The community is really making a conscience effort to give Alpena a chance and they are pleased with what they are experiencing," McRoberts said. "If they continue to do so I think we could match or beat what we did in 2012."
McRoberts said she was shocked to see the number of people who purchased tickets to travel during December. She said in 2011 only 985 passengers flew via Alpena, compared to 1,242 in 2012. McRoberts said she can't put her finger on why the number jumped so sharply, but thinks increased flights to Minneapolis could be part of the reason. She said in a recent exchange with a representative at SkyWest it was brought to her attention traffic had increased. She said the airline is pleased with that and with the way it has been accepted in Northeast Michigan.
"They indicated to me the flights to Minneapolis were up and they are pleased with the positive feedback they are getting from the people and the news in Alpena," McRoberts said. "They really pay close attention to what is going on and being said and right now it appears they are very pleased with how they have been received."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5689.