Sunday, April 17, 2016

Waterloo Regional Airport (KALO) seeing number of users take off

WATERLOO — Promotions have taken flight at Waterloo Regional Airport.

It’s a concept that, in a sense, had been grounded for a time, according to Keith Kaspari, who took over as airport director in November 2014.

“When I first got here, there was really no marketing going on here at all,” he said.

Keith Kaspari
Kaspari says one of the reasons he came to Waterloo was to see if he could find a way to help use of the facility take flight. After all, he said he had pulled off a similar feat as senior vice president and chief operating officer at Capital Region International Airport in Lansing, Mich.

The numbers indicate he’s on course. In 2015, the airport booked 24,984 bookings, which was 78 percent of capacity – load factor, in industry parlance — for 32,074 available seats. The number of boardings in 2015 were 11.6 percent over the 22,382 recorded in 2014. Capacity in 2014 was at 76 percent of the 29,558 available seats.

Last year’s total enplanements were about 22 percent higher than the 20,475 bookings in 2011.

The trend certainly bodes well for expanded service by American Airlines, but the key to getting the carrier’s attention is consistency, Kaspari said.

He noted American added a second Saturday flight between Waterloo and Chicago O’Hare International Airport for summer travel. Only one factor — passenger use — would matter to the airline in any plans to make that flight a permanent part of the schedule, Kaspari said.

“If we can continue to build on that momentum, let’s then continue to see whether or not we can reach out to American officials and eventually continue to justify keeping that second Saturday flight.”

Meantime, the airport is marketing itself as a viable travel alternative to bigger airports in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, he said.

“We’ve been able to partner with three local radio stations, using some fiscal year ’15 dollars that we do receive as a grant from the Iowa Department of Transportation’s Office of Aviation,” he said. We’ve been able to kind of parlay those dollars TV commercials and advertisements, work with The Courier.”

Targeting summer travelers

The messages are zeroing in on spring and summer travelers, Kaspari said.

“We’re continuing that similar theme to use the (2016) dollars in order to get another message out for spring and summer travels for the good news that we’ve got going on, whether it’s the first quarter reports, the second Saturday flights, which I’m really hoping we get a really good response from the community,” he said.

In the first quarter of 2016, boardings were up by 14.5 percent over the same period in 2015, and capacity was about 76 percent, according to airport figures.

“I’d like to think that possibly, we could have about 27,500 passengers by the end of this calendar year,” he said.

That would be about a 10 percent increase over 2015, he noted.

“I think that’s something this community certainly could support, but we’ve got to keep that message going out that we’ve got a viable airport here, we’ve got great service to one of the best hubs in the country – the second-busiest, behind Atlanta,” Kaspari said. “Our airfares are very, very attractive. If we can keep this going on, I’d like to think we’re in a better position than we were as short as two or three years ago.”

The ideal would get capacity on the 50-seat planes to 89 percent or higher, Kaspari said.

If that kind of number were attained, then sustained, there would be a case for service to an additional hub, Kaspari said.

Following Sioux City’s lead?

It recently happened in Sioux City, whose airport recently announced plans to add a daily American Airlines flight to Dallas-Fort Worth, to go with twice-daily connections to O’Hare, Kaspari said.

“If we can continue that model of growing our model of growing our passenger traffic — then you have to sustain it, because you don’t want peaks and valleys year after year,” Kaspari said.

The key to maintaining a certain level of usage lies in communicating with the public, Kaspari said.

“We do have some good news coming from the airport in Waterloo and the city of Waterloo; if we can keep that good news going, that could remind people that maybe they don’t have to travel two to four hours to get to the airport to then begin my air travel,” he said. “Can I fly from Waterloo? Cheap parking for only $5 a day. Gets you home in 15-20 minutes, maybe, depending on where you live, as opposed to two hours.”

Indeed, passengers at the airport said they liked the facility’s ease-of-use.

“Very easy, parking is close,” said Steve Ramser, service technician with Ellis Manufacturing Corp. in Chicago, who was waiting for a mid-day flight back home. “It’s very nice, neat, clean. It’s a nice-looking airport, and I travel a lot. It’s small, regional airport, but it seems very nicely set up.”

E.J. Beaulieu, air traffic controller with the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration, was in Waterloo with two colleagues on a project to upgrade the automation system in the airport’s control tower.

“Not sure what the future holds for it, but we’re in the process of updating the tower and the automation system and trying to make it more flexible for future growth,” he said.

Disagreement on costs

Waterloo resident Cara Burnidge, an assistant profession of religion at the University of Northern Iowa, was waiting for the same mid-day flight to O’Hare.

She said she usually flies out of Cedar Rapids, and occasionally, Des Moines, for her job, which requires numerous trips each year.

“It’s cheaper,” she said.

She was asked why she was flying out of Waterloo this time.

“I wasn’t paying for it,” she said.

The cost differential can be significant, she said.

“It can range anywhere from $100 up,” she said, comparing Waterloo’s airport to Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids.

There also are more choices in Cedar Rapids, she said.

“(Cedar Rapids has) a bigger variety of airlines, which allows for more competition for seats and flights,” she said. “And the time of day is usually different for flights. Every flight from Waterloo will go to Chicago, so it’s more convenient to go to Cedar Rapids or even Des Moines instead, for direct flights.”

She said it takes one hour “door to door” to get from her home to the Cedar Rapids airport, compared to about 10 minutes, when she flies out of Waterloo.

Waterloo does have a few cost advantages, including parking, but there are time drawbacks, she said.

“Sometimes, it’s worse in the long run because of the convenience of not having really long travel days on either side of the conference,” she said, referring to Waterloo-originating flights occasionally requiring an additional connecting flight out of Chicago.

Eddie Diaz of Waterloo was just returning from an overseas flight.

He says he’s a frequent flier out of Waterloo, but he also noted that his employer — whom he declined to identify — picks up the tab.

“It’s more convenient, only nine miles to my house,” Diaz said. “I’m a priority user with American, so it’s very convenient. If you live in Waterloo, you don’t need to go to Cedar Rapids.”

Access is simple, he said.

“We don’t have any international flights, but it’s in and out,” he said.

Ralph Beaver of Waterloo arrived on the mid-day flight from O’Hare, and he said he found a lower fare locally.

“I’ve been using Cedar Rapids and I looked for flights in Cedar Rapids from Savannah, Ga., and when I looked for flights into Waterloo, I was surprised at how much cheaper it was — it’s way cheaper into Waterloo,” he said.

Original article can be found here:

Busy summer of work planned for Waterloo Regional Airport  (KALO) 

WATERLOO -- Expect a lot of summer activity at Waterloo Regional Airport to happening on the ground.

Several infrastructure projects will be getting attention, said Keith Kaspari, the airport’s director.

Among them:

Pavement Rehabilitation of one of the taxiways branching off the primary runway, which is called Runway 12/30. The cost will be about $1.16 million.

Pavement Rehabilitation to secondary Runway 21/30, with joint repair at the intersection of the runway and a taxiway connector, as well as crack sealing on the northern half of the runway. Cost is around $125,000.
Repainting on two runways, as well as four taxiways, and aircraft apron markings at the terminal building. The cost will be more than $600,000.

Other “minor, miscellaneous” projects include seeding, mulching and other maintenance-related jobs.

“We anticipate receiving FAA federal funding assistance via the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program (AIP) for an anticipated total of $1,764,855, which is 90% funding assistance for a $1.94 million project, Kaspari said. Passenger Facility Charges, totaling about $176,500, will cover the balance, Kaspari said.

“This amount of course, also provides for engineering design, project admin (bidding of the project) and construction administration and project inspection services,” he said.

Some airfield rehabilitation projects had been delayed from 2014, he said.

“Last summer, we got started again on pavement rejuvenation and rehabilitation with regard to this taxiway off to the east; this is now done,” he said. “We got delayed due to adverse weather last fall, and that’s Taxiway Alpha east, which is our primary runway.

“Over the coming year, we’re going to have to do some more extensive work on Runway 12/30 so we can continue to accommodate the larger class of aircraft that are the heavier aircraft,” he said.

Original article can be found here:

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