February 17, 2007

Rockford Targets 250,000

Rockford Airport facing many of the same challenges as ORH with no commercial service a few years back is targeting 250,000 passengers this year. Story from the Rockford Register:

It’s getting more crowded at the Chicago/Rockford International Airport, but officials hope it doesn’t feel that way. The airport had its second straight month of 17,000 passengers in January, the first time it’s done that in a year and a half. The 17,041 passengers that flew in and out of Rockford this January is an 86 percent increase over the previous January, a strong first step in the airport’s goal of 250,000 passengers this year.

To deal with growing numbers, the airport continues to improve its terminal. Two new escalators will be operational by the end of the month, the restrooms are being renovated, and there are plans to double the number of courtesy phones, expand the security check-in area and open a self-service restaurant.

“We knew we needed to do additional things if we want to sustain our image as a hassle-free, low-cost, high-value alternative,” airport Director Bob O’Brien said. “We have to be working across so many fronts — that means chasing airlines as well as satisfying passengers. This is the satisfying passengers part.”

Meanwhile, airport officials are discussing long-term planning issues, including expansions of the terminal. The building can comfortably handle between 500,000 and 750,000 passengers, numbers that officials hope to top in the next few years.

Mike Dunn, chairman of the Greater Rockford Airport Authority board, said last month that topping 250,000 passengers this year is a realistic goal, though officials think they can draw as many as 300,000.

This year started out much stronger than last — by the end of January 2006, Northwest Airlines had left town and Rockford had only two routes. Now there are five routes. The most popular were to the Orlando and Tampa Bay areas of Florida, which each topped 4,500 passengers. Dunn said January is historically a down time for travel, so the sharp increase in passengers is noteworthy. February is projected to top 17,000 passengers also, again strongly beating 2006’s numbers.

O’Brien said keeping passengers happy comes down to little things as well as big ones. The new escalators will make it easier for passengers to get to and from the upstairs boarding areas, while the expanded security area will keep people from backing up onto the escalators.The redone restrooms will have hand-sanitizer dispensers, separate sinks instead of the large shared sink and paper towels to complement the dryers.

The airport will also remove its last pay phone this year and at least double the handful of courtesy phones available for local calling. “People go, ‘It’s free?’ Yeah, it’s free,” O’Brien said. “People think it’s a nice touch.”


Anonymous said...

The thing that stands out about Rockford is the fact that it appears they have a spokesman and leader in the form of the Airport Director. The success of an airport ,or any entity for that matter, is a group effort which is comminicated effectively by it's leaders.

Anonymous said...

Bob O'Brien has done a wonderful job here. Mike Dunn is also very active in recruiting future airlines/business and I believe was instrumental in getting Festival Airlines to choose Rockford. Unfortunately nothing has come of that yet, but it shows what it will take to attract carriers.