Cold hits GTRA, 2017 a record

Photo courtesy of GTRA
Daily Times Leader

The bitter cold that brought blinding snow and winds to much of the East Coast and canceled thousands of airline flights at some of the nation's busiest airports had a trickle-down effect at Golden Triangle Regional Airport.

Passenger counts, which have been exceeding 90 percent capacity for weeks, were down Wednesday and Thursday as travelers either canceled or rescheduled plans.

"New York is our third most popular destination, so we did see a drop in the number of passengers leaving GTR earlier this week due to the storm and subsequent flight cancellations in the Northeastern U.S. ," Airport Director Mike Hainsey said.

"Now that the airports in the Northeast are open again, we're seeing normal traffic out of here. Today, all of our flights are going at about 95 percent capacity," he said Friday.

While many passengers were able to reschedule flights and travel plans online, a few had near emergencies, including two people who had to get to New York for a weekend wedding. Delta Airlines personnel were able to get them to Baltimore and they took a train from there to New York, Hainsey said.

The airport closed out 2017 with another record, despite a power outage at the Atlanta airport that cost GTRA about 5 percent of its passenger numbers for the month.

For December, 3,153 passengers boarded flights at GTRA and another 300 took charter flights. That brought the total for the year to 41,250 airline passengers and 2,780 charter passengers for a total of 44,030. That was 1.54 percent ahead of 2016, which also was a record.

"December would have been stronger except for the Atlanta power outage. That cost us a day and a half of passengers, or about 5 percent," Hainsey said. "Even then, we ran at 86 percent load factor."

Tthe December airline numbers at GTRA still were the third-highest in the last dozen years.

The annual total for airline passengers was the second highest since 2004, just 33 behind 2013 numbers.

GTRA, which is supported by the local governments in Clay, Oktibbeha and Lowndes counties, is the state's third-busiest airport behind Jackson and Gulfport. That trio of airports are the only ones in the state that operate without supplemental financial support from the state or federal governments.