Muskegon Airport Traffic Rises


    MUSKEGON — After four years of declines, MuskegonCountyAirport saw passenger traffic increase in 2004 as the economy improved and one airline added service.

    Nearly 67,000 people used MuskegonCountyAirport in 2004, a 4 percent increase over the 64,166 passengers in 2003. The increase reverses a steady slide in passenger volumes over the years in Muskegon and is the first since 1999, when the airport’s passenger traffic exceeded 92,000 people.

    “Four percent is 4 percent. It’s not huge, but for us it’s hopefully a sign of things to come and a trend for the future,” airport Manager Marty Piette said.

    MuskegonCountyAirport handles 14 passenger flights daily to and from regional hubs in Detroit and Milwaukee. Since 1999, the airport’s annual passenger traffic has fallen steadily, as air travel across the country fell in the wake of soft economic conditions and the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

    Piette credits the increased volume in 2004 in part to a fourth daily round-trip flight Midwest Connect added between Muskegon and Milwaukee. The additional flight helped to lift Midwest Connect to a 23 percent increase in passenger volume, to 18,482.

    Northwest Airlines, by far the airport’s largest carrier, experienced flat passenger traffic at MuskegonCountyAirport for the year, carrying 48,159 people who flew between Muskegon and Detroit, the airline’s Midwest hub.

    Northwest Airlines’ passenger count was flat despite the addition of jet service for a single daily flight from June to January. The airport is awaiting financial results from the one-year pilot program for jet service before negotiating with Northwest Airlines to get the jet back for 2005.

    The jet, used during the first flight out of Muskegon in the early morning and the last flight back from Detroit late at night, averaged an occupancy rate around 65 percent, Piette said.

    An improving economy also helped to boost overall passenger traffic at the airport, as did increased marketing efforts, he said.

    The increase in 2004 passenger traffic comes as airport administrators are trying to build volume to lure airlines and encourage existing carriers to implement service upgrades. The move by airlines in the last decade to regional hubs where passengers catch connecting flights tended to hurt smaller airports, Piette said.    

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