By DOUG WILSON
Herald-Whig Senior Writer
Passenger boardings at Quincy Regional Airport are down about 200 from last year, but Airport Manager Jared Hester sees nothing but blue skies ahead.
"We had a rough winter. It was still cold in March and on into April. With all that, we are on track for the magic 10,000 (boardings in a calendar year to trigger $1 million in federal grants)," Hester said.
There were 786 boardings in April, down from 842 last year. Hester said he expects ridership on Cape Air flights between Quincy and St. Louis to return to normal now that warmer weather has returned.
Cape Air Midwest marketing manager Stacey Putnam Ross said advance bookings for June, July and August are up 8, 10 and 18 percent respectively, compared to the same periods in 2013.
The airline also may pick up customers who previously took Bee-Line Express shuttles to Lambert Field at St. Louis. Bee-Line Express closed at the end of April, and nobody bought the entire operation at a May 10 auction. Owner Kathy Mutchler still hopes a new operator will take over the 13-year-old company.
Hester said the airline's $49 one-way tickets for flights to and from St. Louis can fill the void left by Bee-Line's closure.
A flight schedule change is expected to help boost passenger numbers this year. Three months ago, the airline added a fourth round-trip flight on Sundays and reduced the Tuesday schedule to five round-trip flights.
The airport also should have an on-site restaurant open soon. Hester said about 40 people are employed at the airport, and the restaurant will help boost foot traffic.
"The airport's about six miles from Liberty and six miles from Quincy. Just getting a hamburger out here is a luxury," Hester said.