Sawyer marketing funds should help improve traffic

The Marquette County Board recently approved a $25,000 Michigan Department of Transportation Aeronautics Division grant to help market air service at Sawyer International Airport.

The Michigan Air Service Program grant will require a $2,778 local match, which will be paid for out of the airport’s marketing budget.

Sawyer Operations Manager Steve Schenden said the grant money will be used for marketing Sawyer’s air service by attracting passengers and promoting existing service with Delta and American airlines.

We welcome the grant award. Even though the dollar amount is not tremendously high, we think anything that works to help the airport attract more passengers -and consequently benefit Marquette County as a whole- is a good thing.

After posting the lowest passenger volume in more than a decade in 2012, Sawyer International Airport officials expect the number of people flying into and out of the Upper Peninsula’s largest airport to begin rebounding this year.

Since 2000, total passengers at Sawyer gradually rose from 88,791 to a peak of 133,681 in 2007 before falling four of the last five years to hit 76,001 in 2012.

Through March, passenger volumes have increased each month, from 5,181 in January to 6,110 in February to 6,342 in March. However, all three of those months are tracking behind the passenger totals for 2012.

There have been a total of 17,633 passengers at the airport through March this year, compared to 18,439 riders over the same time period last year, a decrease of 806 people.

Several factors were said to have influenced the drop ranging from airline restructuring, fuel prices and the economy to airport subsidies, schedules, destinations and ticket prices.

With Sawyer airport blocked by legislation from receiving federal government subsidies should Delta or American discontinue its service, it is all the more imperative local officials do whatever they can to retain those essential air services.

Both airlines recently agreed to add additional flights to the schedule at Sawyer, which is expected to help increase ridership. We hope the grant funding recently approved will also provide a much needed boost to the operation.