vRidership up at Sawyer a positive sign for area

The report of increased ridership at Sawyer International Airport in recent months is encouraging news.

According to airport officials, 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 from the 6,189 passengers in April 2012.

Airport Manager Duane DuRay said preliminary numbers for June appear to be following the same trend.

Those increases come on the heels of several years of decreasing numbers at the main airport serving the central Upper Peninsula. The peak at Sawyer was in 2007, when 133,681 passengers were recorded, with ridership falling to 76,001 in 2012.

Officials attributed the decreases to several factors, including airline restructuring, fuel prices, the downturn in the economy, airport subsidies, schedules, destinations and ticket prices.

Sawyer officials haven’t been sitting on their hands during the reductions, either, with the securing of additional daily flights being at least partially credited with the recent increases.

In March, Delta Airlines added a midday flight to Detroit, which DuRay said directly influenced the ridership increases in April and May.

In addition, American Eagle began offering a midday flight to Chicago in June, and DuRay said he is hoping the additional service will also help boost passenger numbers.

There could be another factor involved, as well – residents and visitors to the area are simply flying more often when they travel.

Supporting this is the fact that ridership was also up at four of the other five public airports in the U.P.

Included in airports experiencing increases were the Delta County Airport, Ford Airport in Iron Mountain-Kingsford, Gogebic County Airport and Chippewa County International Airport. Houghton County Memorial Airport was the only U.P. facility recording a decline in May.

Total riders at the U.P.’s six airports through May was 86,218, with 31,344 – or 36 percent of that total – attributed to Sawyer.

We’d like to believe the increases will continue and are a reflection of the quality service that is offered and strengthening local, state and national economies.