QUINCY -- Quincy Regional Airport is the nation's 425th busiest airport based on passenger counts, known as enplanements, according to data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, which is a part of the federal Department of Transportation. Airport Director Sandra Shore would like to improve that ranking.
"If people are flying, it is a huge benefit to us if they fly out of Quincy Regional Airport," Shore said. According to the most recent data released on a national scale, there were 7,709 enplanements at Quincy Regional Airport in 2017. Enplanements grew to 9,400 in 2018.
Shore said the ultimate goal each year is for the airport to breach the 10,000 passenger threshold, a benchmark that would secure $1 million in annual funding from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Local business leaders say adding destinations to the airport's lineup could possibly bolster the number of passengers flying from Quincy. Blessing Health System CEO Maureen Kahn said Blessing Hospital employees regularly use the airport to fly to Chicago, but it would be beneficial if there also were a flight to St. Louis.
"A lot of our people like Southwest Airlines, and Southwest has a lot of destinations offered from St. Louis," Kahn said.
Physician recruiter Ginger Hodson agreed. She said she frequently brings potential physicians to Quincy and sees a local airport with a robust offering of flights as a major selling point for the city.
"The airport is not only a resource for getting people to Quincy for interviews, but it is a great way to sell them on Quincy, on the ease of traveling to Quincy," Hodson said. "As you know, we bring people from all over the country here, so they may not have family in the immediate area. If we can show them how easy it is to travel from here, then I think that is a major benefit for us as an employer."
Other business industry leaders agreed.
Awerkamp Machine Co. President Mark Terwelp said he sees the value of the airport and having more than one destination.
Holly Cain, executive director of the Quincy Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the city's tourism industry would benefit from the airport having flights to both St. Louis and to Chicago.
"The airport is so vital and extremely important not just for business travelers who are wanting to quickly fly in and out of Quincy, but also for people wanting to leisurely travel to Quincy," Cain said. She said she and her colleagues at the CVB are frequently asked by out-of-town visitors about connections to the airport in St. Louis.
"We don't have a shuttle service to St. Louis anymore," Cain said. "Having a link to the St. Louis airport, especially for those people flying Southwest Airlines, is very important."
Three of the four airlines -- Air Choice One, Boutique Air and Cape Air -- vying to be the next commercial air service provider at Quincy Regional Airport are offering daily flights to St. Louis and Chicago. The proposal from SkyWest Airlines, who has the current Essential Air Service contract, only lists flights to Chicago's O'Hare International airport.
Air Choice One, based in St. Louis, is offering 18 flights per week to both O'Hare and to St. Louis Lambert International Airport. Boutique Air, based in San Francisco, is proposing 24 flights per week to St. Louis and 12 flights per week to Chicago. Cape Air, based in Hyannis, Mass., is the company that held the Essential Air Service contract before SkyWest. Cape Air is proposing 18 flights a week to both Chicago and St. Louis.
SkyWest, based in St. George, Utah, is proposing 12 flights per week to Chicago.
In addition to their proposals, the four airlines say they are all willing to add flights to new destinations.
Air Choice One CEO Shane Storz said his airline provides air service from Southeast Iowa Regional Airport in Burlington, which he says is used by some Quincy residents. The airport offers flights to Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., in addition to Chicago and St. Louis.
Boutique Air and Cape Air have reportedly pledged to evaluate adding flights to Nashville (Tenn.) International Airport, Shore said. SkyWest has made a similar pledge to Shore saying it would like to add flights to either Denver or Houston. Calls to those companies requesting comment on this story were not returned.