airport business

A Delta jet prepares to taxi at the Idaho Falls Regional Airport in this 2018 file photo.

The Idaho Falls Airport has had a record-setting year so far. It has served more passengers than any other six-month period. Passenger totals increased about 15 percent from the same period in 2018.

From Jan. 1 to June 30, the airport handled nearly 165,000 total passengers. That’s about 20,000 more than flew through the airport during the first six months of 2018.

“We are very pleased to see such a significant increase in our passenger numbers,” said Rick Cloutier, director of the Idaho Falls Airport, in a news release. “The airport staff has been working with the airlines to increase frequency of flights and increase the size of the aircraft, and we are definitely seeing the benefits of that work in our increased passenger counts.”

More passengers mean more revenue for the airport, Cloutier told the Post Register. Every U.S. airport receives a $4.50 facilities fee per ticket, he said. Additional revenue is collected from parking fees and concession sales

“Revenues are up, obviously, as passengers go up,” Cloutier said. “Conversely, costs go up because you’re having to do more maintenance on the building, buy more supplies.”

One major source of revenue for the airport this year has been the new restaurant. Tailwind, an airport concession chain, opened in December, replacing Kathryn’s Lounge.

Tailwind operates two concessions in the Idaho Falls Airport, one full-service restaurant downstairs and a bar, which serves hot food, upstairs. The new restaurant likely will double the airport’s concession sales by the end of 2019.

“Just the six months they’ve been in operations we’ve received more revenue than any previous year, total,” Cloutier said.

Further additions to airport facilities are underway, such as a new baggage claim area, which is expected to be completed in October.

Following completion of the new baggage claim, additional planned expansions include new security screening space, the addition of two new gates, new passenger boarding bridges, additional passenger gate waiting space and additional concessions and restaurant space.

Planned expansions, combined with increased passengers and revenue, could attract more flights to the airport, Cloutier said, although he did not provide specifics on added services and/or airlines.

“Were optimistic that we’ll be receiving additional airlines in the future,” he said. “We are in negotiations with airlines to provide more service. The more people that use the airport, the more airlines we’re going to have.”

For now, Cloutier can boast 2019’s passenger numbers to potential airlines. Those numbers will likely break year-end records, as well, as the airport heads into its busiest season — late-summer months that weren’t included in current numbers.

“Our busiest time of year is July, August and September,” Cloutier said. “We’re very optimistic that those numbers will continue to be up, and we’ll have a great year.”

Reporter Ryan Suppe can be reached at 208-542-6762. Follow him on Twitter: @salsuppe.

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