Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Valley International Airport (KHRL) shows sharp increase in air traffic

HARLINGEN — A strong Spring Break helped push Valley International Airport to significant increases in passengers for March and a nearly 10 percent gain for the year.

March enplanements — arrivals and departures — were up 8.8 percent in the month.

Airport officials said Tuesday the best indication of the higher-than-usual Spring Break traffic numbers was reflected in the airport’s South Padre Island shuttle report, which showed a 44.8 percent increase over 2016.

For the year, the direct shuttle service to South Padre was up 26.2 percent.

“A lot of that was Sun Country is back,” said Jose Mulet, director of air service development marketing and airline ground handling. The Minnesota-based carrier resumed seasonal service at VIA in November.

“We do have people coming in for Spring Break, but we have the locals doing Holy Week leave also,” Mulet said.

“But as far as incoming, I want to say the shuttle traffic … that was substantially up,” Mulet said. “That’s the Island shuttle, so that’s definitely going to the Island, and our shuttle doesn’t stop in Port Isabel or Laguna Vista or anything.”

The weather also played a role, Mulet said. With good weather and no red tide, college students in Austin or Houston who might “shy away” from South Padre in the past had no such concerns.

“For March Spring Break we did well. We were up 8.8 percent. But if you look at our year to date, we’re up almost 10 percent, which is outstanding,” said Bryan Wren, assistant director of aviation.

“Larger aircraft, mostly,” Wren said in explaining the passenger increase. “Southwest got rid of the 500s (Boeing 737-500s), and the 300s (Boeing 737-300s) are slowly going. The seat capacity and the market went up, and then United on certain flights of the week, instead of the 50-seaters, they’ve increased to the 76-seaters.”

Mulet said he was more involved with the renewed Sun Country flights compared to other carriers because he also was in charge of ground handling for the airline.

That gave him some insight into how Sun Country passengers were responding to the resurrection of service to Valley International Airport.

“When you hear from the passengers when they’re boarding, ‘We’re so glad you’re back, we’re so glad you’re back,’ and they’re getting off the airplane and the flight crew is waving them goodbye, and they’re telling them, ‘We’re so happy you’re back,’ well, you hear this over and over again,” Mulet said.

Sun Country flights to VIA occurred between November and the end of April. This year, the airline intends to start two weeks earlier.

“I’m pushing for them to extend the season for four more weeks next year,” Mulet added.

Cargo flights also showed an increase for March, with Fedex, Southwest, ABX and Kalitta Air sending out 1,836 tons of goods and taking off 2,545 for a total cargo tonnage of 4,381.

That was good for an increase of 12.8 percent over the past March, and the airport was up 16.7 percent for the year.

Overall, the year is a reversal for enplanements at Valley International Airport following a long run of decreased passenger traffic, which began in 2008.

“It’s about time,” Wren said. “It’s the first year we’ve had an increase in enplanements. Our decrease started in ’08, and last year we hit the bottom and now we’re finally coming back up.”

Original article can be found here:   http://www.brownsvilleherald.com

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Kalitta Air :( Forced to break FARS to complete the trip.