Roanoke airport traffic increases, officials still seek more flights

Airport officials announce more people are flying in and out of Roanoke

ROANOKE, Va. – Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport officials are happy to report that more people continue to fly in and out of the Star City and they hope the news can lead to more flights and cheaper prices. They said Monday that there was another increase in traffic in March, which keeps the airport on a two-plus-year trend of growth.

There was a 2.4 percent increase in traffic in March compared to March of last year, officials announced Monday. That’s about 1,400 more passengers.

There’s been a 3.7 percent increase in traffic thus far in 2018 compared to last year, meaning 5,000 more people have used Roanoke’s airport. The growth came after an increase of around 2,000 passengers over the holidays and a 4.7 percent increase in traffic in 2017 from 2016.

Bradley Boettcher, director of marketing and air service development, is in discussions with airline companies.

"We're continuing this nice growth, which is really nice to go to the carriers and advocate for more air service,” he said.

American Airlines flights to LaGuardia will be reduced from two to one next month, but Boettcher said Roanoke hopes to have more frequent trips to current destinations and larger planes with more low-fare seats in the coming months, and new carriers potentially early next year.

"Having conversations this weekend with a couple of our carriers, American and Delta, and they were really happy to see what that pattern continues to be,” he said.

Officials have also continued to focus on getting new destinations. Dallas is a top priority. Boettcher said airport leaders are in negotiations with American Airlines and hopes they can bring flights to Dallas by the end of the year.

Roanoke officials are in talks with Delta to add service to Detroit and with Allegiant Air to add flights to Fort Lauderdale, but Boettcher said the airlines are short on planes and crews.

Airport leaders are also trying to get United Airlines to add flights to Newark and Denver.

"The most important thing on any of this, we just ask the community to continue to support the airport and fly here when you can,” he said.

Airport officials are still waiting to hear back from the federal government about a $1 million small community air service development grant that could help increase the number of flights to current destinations. Roanoke applied Dec. 16.

"Normally they turn those around in about three months. Now we're stretching into four and it'll soon be five so we're hopeful that we're going to hear something soon,” Boettcher said.

That grant would require a local match of $1 million, which would lead airport officials to seek support from local businesses.

In the meantime, officials are still working on improvements for passengers. A walkway cover from the parking lot to the terminal will open Friday, providing extra lighting and protection from bad weather.

There are no current plans to add parking, though there are plans to improve current parking spaces, Boettcher said.

The airport is on track to have its best year since 2011 if it maintains its growth rate, according to traffic statistics.

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