Numbers dip in July, but Cape Air still on track for 10,000 boardings

Cape Air pilot Jeff Burkhart loads luggage into the baggage compartment of a Cessna 402 at the Quincy Regional Airport. (H-W Photo/Steve Bohnstedt)
Posted: Aug. 11, 2014 10:25 am Updated: Aug. 25, 2014 12:15 pm

Herald-Whig Senior Writer

Cape Air passenger numbers were down slightly in July, but they remain on track to exceed 10,000 boardings for the year to qualify the airport for $1 million in Federal Aviation Administration funding.

"We're doing good out here," said Quincy Regional Airport Manager Jared Hester.

Cape Air transported 923 passengers to Lambert International Airport in St. Louis during July. That's a 4.6 percent drop from 967 outbound passengers in July 2013.

"We're only a couple of hundred passengers behind where we were last year, and that's after a pretty rough winter," Hester said.

In February alone, the airport had to cancel 17 outbound flights because of ice, snow or weather conditions that were considered unsafe.

"With all that, we were still only 2 percent down from the previous year," Hester said.

Cape Air has handled more Quincy passengers in every year since arriving in late 2009. Federal statistics show Cape Air's Quincy flights handled 14,909 passengers -- a combination of inbound and outbound -- in 2010. Those numbers rose to 17,322 in 2011, 19,333 in 2012 and 20,728 in 2013.

Cape Air's daily average for enplanements rose from 26.5 passengers in 2010 to 33.1 passengers last year.

Andrew Bonney, Cape Air's senior vice president of planning, said passenger numbers have risen because of a partnership between the airline and the community.

"Cape Air has been very happy with the service in Quincy, and more important, the community is happy with the service we provide," Bonney said.

The airline has tweaked its scheduled departures and arrivals to give travelers better options. Cape Air also has opened a ticket office in Quincy's central business district.

"When someone calls into our ticket reservation system from a local number, their call gets directed to that local office unless the line is already in use, and then it goes into our regular ticket reservation system," Bonney said.

Cape Air operates in Quincy under an Essential Air Service subsidy from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The airline has a contract to continue that service through at least Nov. 30, 2015, providing 36 flights per week between Quincy and St. Louis, and receiving an EAS subsidy of $1.9 million per year.

EAS subsidies are under review by the U.S. Department of Transportation. According to a federal notice, airports where subsidies are $200 per passenger or higher by September 2015 will no longer be eligible for the program.

Quincy appears to be safe from elimination under that rule. The airport's subsidy per passenger was $94.41 last year. By comparison, the subsidy for the Marion airport was $104.71, and the subsidy at Decatur airport was $208.38.

Hester said the airport is doing well in other ways.

"We've got a great fixed-base operator and great flight school, and the restaurant is doing real well," Hester said.

Pamela Root of the Mane Runway Restaurant and Lounge Inc. has been serving meals seven days a week. Fried chicken has been the most popular order, and diners often include private aviators who participate in fly-ins.

"We have opened a game room for a dart league or cards. We've also opened an upstairs extension into the mezzanine area," Root said.