Sunday, June 5, 2016

4 new airlines eye new terminal: Expansion keeps business booming at Concord Regional Airport (KJQF), Cabarrus County, North Carolina

 Concord Regional Airport director Rick Cloutier talks about a new terminal that is under construction and is expected to open for use later this year.

CONCORD — Four different airlines are eyeing Concord Regional Airport, thanks to the construction of a new terminal and parking deck that should be ready to use by September.

Concord Regional Airport is constructing a $6.5 million terminal that will be about 32,000 square feet. About 90 percent of the construction cost will be paid with federal funding and the rest will be split between state funding and the City of Concord. Concord’s portion will be about $325,000, according to Concord Regional Airport Director Rick Cloutier.

A $5.7 million parking deck with 700 parking spaces is also being built. The parking deck will be funded by the City of Concord, which will charge parking fees to generate revenue. Concord City Council still has to vote on the parking fee structure, but Cloutier said the fees look to run $4 a day for uncovered parking and $5 a day for covered parking.

“The revenue from the parking deck will surpass our debt service, which will increase revenue every year to the airport,” Cloutier said.

Cloutier said that regional airports are revenue generators and for every $1 spent on airport improvements, that typically generates about $20 in product.

Currently, the Concord Regional Airport’s economic impact on the region is about $200 million. But Cloutier can see that increasing. Allegiant Air is currently the only commercial airline service operating out of Concord, and the airport can handle about 10 flights a week.

The construction of the new terminal and parking deck — which should be in operation by September — will allow the airport to offer up to about 30 flights a week. The increase could generate another $20 to $30 million a year in economic impact, Cloutier said.

Cloutier said they are in discussions with four airlines interested in offering services through Concord Regional Airport. Because they are still in discussion phases, Cloutier could not say who the airlines were or the destinations they look to offer, but he did say services look to be to destinations in the north and to the west.

“What I can tell you is we are in discussions with destinations we don’t currently service now and not projected to be served by the new Allegiant announcements,” Cloutier said.

Allegiant Air is expected to make an announcement on June 28 about new destinations and additional flights to current destinations from Concord Regional Airport.

Cloutier said they have four airlines looking, but the airport could realistically only accommodate two of the airlines.

“It depends on their number of operations and how that works out with Allegiant’s increase of operations, but we could accommodate another two more, again with limited operations,” Cloutier said.

Allegiant offers flights to the Orlando Sanford International Airport; St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport; and Ft. Lauderdale International Airport.

Allegiant has had a huge impact on the airport. From December 2013 to about May 2016, Allegiant served more than 200,000 customers through Concord Regional Airport.

Of those customers, about 32 percent come from “away airports,” Cloutier said. He said there are many residents from Florida who have family in Cabarrus County and customers also fly to Concord for the local attractions, such as Charlotte Motor Speedway. But patrons also uses Allegiant, because of its cheap flights, flying into Concord to then make plans to travel in the region.

The average flight on Allegiant at Concord Regional Airport is $55 one way. People fly into Concord, get a rental car and travel to Boone or Childress Vineyards and other destinations.

“They are going on vacation in the region so they come in here for the low cost, they get a rental car, might spend a night or two in the Concord/Charlotte area, going to visit someplace,” Cloutier said. “It is such a low cost carrier it actually stimulates travel in the region.”

Airport Growth

Concord Regional Airport has grown so much over the years — with general aviation traffic and Allegiant’s commercial flights —officials are  having to increase the number of firefighters assigned to the airport. Federal regulations show Concord has grown enough they will now go from four firefighters dedicated to the airport to nine.

City Council is currently in its budget discussions which includes money for the airport. Cloutier is requesting a budget of $750,000 to pay for the additional firefighters. That will include the one time purchase of equipment associated with hiring the new firefighters. The need for more firefighters is compounded by the addition of the terminal and parking deck, which will only increase the airport’s growth in activity.

The increase is also pushing Cloutier to budget for five full-time police officers dedicated to the airport. Currently, the airport does not have dedicated officers, but use off-duty police officers.

Cloutier requested $550,000 to budget for the new officers and their equipment and police cars. Concord Regional Airport expects to receive reimbursement from TSA for $20 per hour per officer, which works out to about $207,500 a year in reimbursement.

Comparable to Asheville

The expansion of Concord Regional Airport will make it comparable in size to the Asheville Regional Airport, Cloutier said. The new terminal will have a concession stand area, as well as a visitors center provided by the Cabarrus County Convention and Visitors Bureau, and space for two rental car services.

Airport officials are already anticipating the need to expand in the future because of the demand patrons and airlines have for the location. There is room to expand the terminal enough to be able to add another 25 flights a week down the road and expand the parking lot to accommodate another 550 parking spaces.

“We are looking to continue to make decisions … that will serve the community and the regions with different destinations and different services than they can get in Charlotte,” Cloutier said. “We don’t ever want to compete with (Charlotte Douglas International Airport). Charlotte is a great airport with a lot of great services. A fantastic asset for us to have in the region, but this additional service with Allegiant, and our other providers, will compliment what services are available in Charlotte.”

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