Airport totals show fewer fliers from Rockford in June
An airline industry in chaos, record jet-fuel prices and a sluggish economy finally caught up to Chicago Rockford International Airport.
The airport saw a small decrease in passengers in June, its first drop in a year and a half. Officials are glad it wasn’t worse.
“I remain pleasantly surprised that we’re able to maintain the levels we are maintaining,” said Mike Dunn, chairman of the Greater Rockford Airport Authority board of commissioners. “It’s going to get tougher. It’s not going to get easier.”
The airport is changing its schedule to draw more passengers and keep costs down.
In June, 18,044 passengers flew in and out of Rockford, compared with 18,290 a year ago. Still, the airport remains 16 percent ahead of last year’s pace and is still in line to set a single-year record.
But because jet fuel rose more than 40 percent since May — from $3.50 to $5 — officials are evaluating their deal with Southern Skyways that brought Denver service and several day trips to the airport.
The airport shares in the costs and any profits in those flights, and it budgeted up to $450,000 in losses for the first year. Without changes, Dunn said, the airport could “blow by” that amount.
So starting next week, the Denver route will drop to two flights a week through August. That’s traditionally the weakest time in the airline industry, Executive Director Bob O’Brien said. Passengers booked on the cut flights will get refunds or new accommodations.
The flights will return to four a week in September.
Meanwhile, the airport continues to ramp up its day-trip program. It’s sold out two trips to Niagara Falls and is offering trips to Indianapolis and Mackinac Island, Mich.
The goal of those trips is to draw more people to Rockford’s airport while breaking even on costs, O’Brien said. He hopes to do several a month.
Also, Dunn said, the airport is considering offering a new destination through Southern Skyways.
He said the airport’s strategy is to maintain as much service as it can during the tough times, in the hopes that it creates opportunities if and when the airline industry rebounds.
Myrtle Beach-bound flights end early, citing fuel costs
Southern Skyways’ seasonal flights to Myrtle Beach, S.C., will end several weeks early.
The airline has canceled its Aug. 9, 16 and 23 flights from Rockford through Charleston, W.Va., according to airline officials. An Aug. 9 return flight is still scheduled. Passengers on canceled flights will be given a full refund.
The flights were canceled because Charleston ended its subsidy to Southern on the route, said Bob O’Brien, executive director of Chicago Rockford International Airport.
The route had been doing well passenger-wise, with some flights selling out. Saturday’s flight is the only remaining one with tickets available at southernskyways.com.
But jet fuel rose from $3.50 a gallon in May to nearly $5 now, O’Brien said, making the future flights unprofitable.
Rockford didn’t subsidize the Myrtle Beach route, only providing marketing assistance. The airline had combined Myrtle Beach flights from Rockford and Charleston to save money.
Staff writer Thomas V. Bona may be contacted at 815-987-1343 or email@example.com.