Flagstaff had been requesting new air service and destinations, and it happened. In March, United Airlines came to Flagstaff and introduced daily non-stop service to Denver and beyond. Then in April, American Airlines added daily non-stop service to Dallas. American is again testing the market with Saturday-only service to Los Angeles International Airport that began in August and will run through this fall.
These additional flights have been a welcome change for our community, as well as for the airport. The growth in daily passengers has brought some growing pains for the terminal, but we are adjusting and getting things in place. The Air Café, which previously struggled to stay open, is now struggling to keep up with the flow. The increased demand for rental cars has caused vehicle and staff shortages as our rental car agencies work to keep pace with the new market, and our parking lot is overflowing with vehicles. These challenges are definite signs of growth, though, and all of us are rising to the occasion.
The city has faced some issues with this growth that will take a little longer to resolve. We have, out of necessity, increased airport support staff members who provide aircraft rescue firefighting duties, among others. TSA staffing has increased, and we are in the process of moving the big X-ray machine in the terminal lobby into a new room.
Perhaps the most significant challenge we face is parking. We hear frequently, “Parking is crowded; everyone is parking all over.”
We have been trying for several years to address this. Without going into all the details, we are resolving it. The process includes planning and then building the new parking lot, which will take at least a year. Because of this, we will be moving to a paid parking system. The proceeds from this paid system will be used to pay the city back and help offset other costs for expansion.
Until we can expand, we encourage airport patrons to be dropped off and picked up. This becomes extremely important throughout the winter snow season. During the warmer months, we have been able to look the other way when people park outside of designated parking spots. With the snow season, city ordinances go into effect, requiring the removal of cars along streets to enable snow plowing. The airport will have to enforce these ordinances.
We also hear the community need for West Coast destinations. We continue meeting with the airlines to encourage expansion to the most asked about destinations, Los Angeles and San Francisco. To make that happen, we need to fill the seats of the existing flights. Expansion into new markets is made easier for airlines when they see existing routes reaching capacity.
In 2019, for the first time, the Flagstaff Airport is expected to serve more than 200,000 passengers. That is impressive, but there are still numerous seats available on existing routes before we see the West Coast expansion.
Thank you to everyone who has chosen to “Always Fly Flagstaff First.” Without you, the new routes would never have happened. FBN
By Barney Helmick
Barney Helmick is the airport director for the City of Flagstaff.