Sawyer passenger numbers take off

K.I. SAWYER – Passenger totals rebounded at Sawyer International Airport in April and May, breaking a downward trend of declining ridership logged at the airport over several years.

The total number of passengers flying in and out of Sawyer in May was 7,345, compared to 6,808 in May 2012. In April, ridership at Sawyer was 6,366, up over the 6,189 passengers in April 2012.

The trend is continuing through preliminary figures Sawyer International Airport Manager Duane DuRay has seen for June.

“June’s numbers, the unofficial numbers are better than last year by a couple hundred passengers,” DuRay said.

In March, there were 6,342 passengers at Sawyer, compared to 6,590 in 2012. But that month, Delta Connections added a midday trip to Detroit, which has helped improve ridership.

“April and May can be directly related to the increase in flights from Delta,” DuRay said.

In June, American Eagle added midday flights to Chicago, which are expected to also influence passenger totals.

“We should start to see an uptick in passengers on that one,” DuRay said.

Airport officials are analyzing new airline reports that allow ridership to be studied on individual flights.

From January through May, there have been 31,344 total passengers at Sawyer, compared to 31,436 during the same time frame last year. Total riders at the U.P.’s five airports through May was 86,218, with 36 percent of that total attributed to Sawyer.

Statewide, total ridership is 14.5 million through May, with 36.8 million posted for all of 2012.

“We are pleased with the increase in service from both Delta and American, realizing the potential of Marquette as a growing market,” DuRay said. “We hope that this trend continues in cooperation with the airlines and the airport.”

Ridership was also up at three of the U.P.’s four other airports in May.

At the Delta County Airport, there were 2,227 passengers in May compared to 2,007 riders in May 2012.

Ford Airport in Iron Mountain-Kingsford had 1,360 passengers in May, compared to 1,239 in May 2012.

At the Gogebic County Airport, ridership also increased with 379 passengers tallied in May, compared to 288 in May 2012. At the Chippewa County International Airport in Sault Ste. Marie there were 3,527 riders in May, up from 3,308 in May last year.

The Houghton County Memorial Airport posted a May decline to 3,987 riders, compared to 4,206 in May 2012.

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.

At the U.P.’s six air service airports, including Sawyer, the 2012 passenger total was 213,808, which was down 32,157 passengers from 2011, with Sawyer’s 28,984 fewer riders accounting for 90 percent of the decline.

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.

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.