Monday, March 19, 2018

Charleston International Airport income surpasses expectations as passenger count soars

Charleston's popularity for tourists and major businesses continues to lift Charleston International's bottom line above expectations.

For the first six months of its budget year, which ended in December, the self-supporting agency ferried 85,000 more passengers to departing flights than the same period a year earlier. The total number surpassed 1 million.

That yielded 9 percent more outbound ticket holders in July through December and a 3 percent boost in operating revenue than planned for the period. Total income after expenses is up 15 percent at the state's busiest airport.

Charleston County Aviation Authority, which oversees the airport, brought in $28.1 million during the period, outpacing its own projections.

"It's all driven by enplanements," said Doug Boston, the airport's chief financial officer. "A greater volume of passengers means more revenue."

Enplanements is a term used by airports for outbound passengers.

Boston attributed the positive revenue numbers to Charleston's growing business climate with industries such as Boeing, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz Vans and its tourism draw with 6.9 million visitors a year.

"The demand exists, so more airlines want to come here because they think they can be successful here," Boston said.

Airport CEO Paul Campbell echoed his remarks.

"Our financials are strong, our cash flow is up, and we continue to add more flights," Campbell said. "We could see passenger growth of 10 percent over last year because of more flights from more airlines this year."

Every airline saw more outbound passengers during the period. Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, the dominant carrier in Charleston, led with more than 312,000 departing ticket holders. American Airlines followed with about 255,000 airplane boarders.

The addition of Allegiant and Frontier airlines this year, as well as additional flights and routes from existing carriers, will boost passenger counts going forward.

Helping to add to the airport's growing coffers was higher income from parking fees and vendors.

Parking revenue climbed above 11 percent, reflecting the first full six-month period of higher fees on surface and valet parking after the rate hike in November 2016. Concession income soared by more than 35 percent, also showing the first six months of full operations by airport vendors after the four-year terminal overhaul was completed in October 2016.

The agency's reliever airports also landed small increases in income at the mid-year point. Together, Mount Pleasant Regional Airport and Charleston Executive Airport on Johns Island brought in about $250,000 after expenses.

"The bottom line is it's better than expected," Boston said of the overall budget.

The airport is expected to take a hit on its passenger count for January, when snow and ice froze local air travel for nearly four days, but its overall numbers on travelers and income for the 12 months ending in June are expected to be up.

Original article ➤

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