GTR sets passenger record in 2018

Airport Executive Director Mike Hainsey

Ryan Phillips
SDN Editor

Golden Triangle Regional Airport (GTR) saw a banner year in 2018, with passenger totals increasing by more than 10 percent — an all-time record for the airport.

The Columbus-based airport said in a press release Friday that nearly 100,000 passengers used the airport in the last year, making it the second record-setting year in a row.

Airport Executive Director Mike Hainsey told the Starkville Daily News on Friday that every month except January performed exceptionally well during the past year, with the first month of the year being a predictably slow travel period across the industry following the major travel holidays that cap off the previous year.

“That’s really indicative of the business travel,” Hainsey said. “We’re an 80 percent business market and because the reliability is really good, and our on-time rate and cancelation rate is better than the industry average.”

Hainsey then explained how the airport calculates its totals, with 48,717 individual passengers booking both commercial and charter flights at GTR. Airport administration then takes that number and multiples it by two, under the assumption that those booking flights will also book return flights at the conclusion of their stay.

The total for 2018 far exceeds the 44,030 passengers recorded in 2017, and substantially more than the 41,095 GTR passengers reported in 2014.

Commercial airline traffic at GTR was up 9 percent, but the much smaller percentage of passengers taking charter flights climbed by 30 percent.

Hainsey said the lion’s share of the roughly 3,600 charter passengers were from MSU athletic teams or competitors traveling to and from the Golden Triangle through GTR — a notion that Hainsey says underscores the diverse dynamic that makes the airport’s success and growth possible.

While charter flight patterns are far more inconsistent in relation to travel trends, September proved to be the most successful month for charter flights in 2018. This spike during September is likely the result of MSU hosting three home football games, including coach Dan Mullen and Florida, while both October and November only feature two home games on the schedule for the Bulldogs.

The commercial flights are all through Delta Air Lines, with Hainsey saying approximately 45,000 passengers flew Delta last year — a service airport leadership hopes to build on in 2019, in addition to potentially adding more westbound flights.
The two best performing months were May (4,138 passengers total) and October (4,473 passengers total), according to monthly passenger totals.

Even though January once again came in as the slowest month, with 3,081 airline passengers and 158 charter passengers, airline passenger numbers for the month out-performed totals for January in each of the last four years, showing a sustained trend of growth for Delta in the Golden Triangle.

Additionally, airline passenger totals for October have improved each of the last five years.

Passenger figures also show May and October both saw more than 4,000 passengers for the month for the first time — both of which are GTR passenger records for the months over the last five years.

Hainsey said the success can be attributed to the growth of existing businesses in the area, coupled with the customer service passengers receive at the airport.

As for a personal touch for passenger, Hainsey credited GTR staff with being familiar, hospitable and willing to treat each passenger as an individual with a unique set of needs.

“We have seen a significant increase in the number of business travelers,” Hainsey said. “Even more important, the increase in the number of repeat customers tells me they like the way they are treated when they fly from GTR.”