Passenger traffic at the Dayton International Airport was up in early 2022, but saw year-over-year declines each month in the second half of the year — a trend aviation officials said was related to a nationwide pilot shortage and reduced airline capacity.
Total boardings in 2022 were up from 2021′s COVID-affected numbers, and aviation officials predict a roughly 11% increase in passenger traffic for 2023.
“I don’t think 2023 is going to be a great year for increases in the number of enplanements, but I think it’s going to be fairly decent for us,” said Gil Turner, the director of aviation at the Dayton International Airport.
The Dayton International Airport had about 584,490 enplanements (passenger boardings) in 2022, which was an increase of about 8.6% from 2021, or an increase of about 46,000 passengers.
Air travel was badly battered by COVID, and local passenger traffic in 2022 was still down about 35% from 2019, pre-pandemic levels.
Enplanements dropped 7% in December, compared to the same month in 2021. It was the sixth straight month of year-over-year declines.
Before July, passenger traffic had increased for 16 months in a row, compared to the same months a year prior.
That streak of growth followed a dozen straight months of year-over-year enplanement declines, which started early in the pandemic.
The Dayton airport originally expect to have about 700,000 enplanements in 2022, Turner said.
But passenger traffic fell well short of that mark after pilot shortages, higher fuel expenses and reduced airline capacity, he said.
Turner said he thinks the airport could see about 650,000 enplanements this year.
“Things are looking good — Dayton is a good market and I think people are noticing that,” Turner said.
Linda Hughes, Dayton’s air service manager, said the pilot shortage forced airlines to reduce capacity, and many pilots opted to retire early as part of airlines’ cost-cutting efforts during the industry’s pandemic struggles.
The Dayton airport continues to try to recruit new airlines and add new service and destinations and secure larger aircraft with more seats available, she said.
Business travel isn’t as strong was it was before the pandemic, aviation officials said, and the Dayton airport has a goal to attract more leisure travelers.
The “Dayton airport certainly needs more low-cost carriers to help bring our cost down by having more competitive air fares,” Hughes said.
The airport had some good news in 2022, including Delta Air Lines’ decision to start new nonstop air service from Dayton to LaGuardia Airport in New York City, Turner said.
Also last year, Avelo Airlines announced it would launch new air service from Dayton to Orlando, Florida. Avelo’s inaugural flight out of Dayton took off on Jan. 13th, and it was fully booked with 189 passengers.
The Orlando service, which departs Dayton at 8:20 p.m. Mondays and Fridays, has sold roughly about 100 to 120 seats on every flight since launching, Turner said.
Avelo Airlines’ first Dayton flight was the first time the company had sold out one of its inaugural flights, said Courtney Goff, communications manager with Avelo.
“It shows a lot of promise in the Dayton community that you guys are going to fly with us,” she said. “It allows us to work with our airport and (Dayton Convention & Visitors Bureau) partners to see where our next route could be.”
Goff said Avelo continues to see a good level of bookings.
Avelo, which describes itself as a low-cost carrier, currently offers one-way flights from Dayton to Orlando about $59. The company serves 34 markets and it has had more than 12,000 flights since starting air service in April 2021.
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