Wednesday, January 11, 2017

McCook Ben Nelson Regional Airport: Passenger numbers continue to soar

McCOOK, Neb. -- The McCook City Council hoped a new airline would turnaround what had been a disastrous two-year stretch for commercial air service at McCook Ben Nelson Regional Airport and, so far, they appear to be right. The airport posted a 388 percent annual increase in boarded passengers and finished 2016 with the best fourth quarter stretch in nearly a decade, according to city enplanement reports.

The McCook airport boarded 1627 commercial passengers for the year, up from 333 and 402 passengers in 2015 and 2014, respectively.

During the fourth quarter of 2016, October thru December, the airport boarded 634 passengers. The mark represents a significant spike from the 83 passengers boarded during the same time period the year prior, as well as the most fourth quarter commercial passengers since 758 were boarded in 2007.

Considering Boutique Air didn't assume commercial air service responsibilities until early June, and passenger counts continued to increase as the year progressed, the airport appears to be on pace for one of its busiest years in 2017.

In December of 2015 City Council recommended to the Department of Transportation Boutique Air provide essential air service going forward. At the time, council members advocated for early termination of the Great Lakes contract which ran through June of 2016. City staff initially sought more time to research the contract situation and later indicated they didn't see a premature change on the horizon.

Great Lakes subsequently averaged 62 boarded passengers per month over the first five months of 2016. Boutique boarded 137 passengers in June and averaged 196 per month for the remainder of the year.