ECP officials predict travel numbers will remain strong

Published: Aug. 1, 2022 at 8:23 PM CDT
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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport in Bay County experienced an unprecedented 1.6 million passengers in 2021.

“Last week we reported to the airport board that we were down a little bit over our numbers from ‘21, but as we talked about, ‘21 was unprecedented in our amount of activity,” said ECP Deputy Executive Director Richard A. McConnell.

Experts say Florida’s lenient pandemic rules brought more people to the state. That’s why McConnell suspects this year will bring in fewer passengers.

“We’re thinking it’s going to be somewhere in-between the 1.2 million passengers of 2019 and the 1.6 million passengers of 2021.”

ECP officials said the Fall season is expected to be steady regardless of expected seasonal reductions in airport traffic. However, McConnell said expanding the airport to meet demand is a top priority.

“We’ve got projects right now, expansion projects, that are designated for our baggage makeup area where your baggage goes before the airplane,” McConnell said. “We’re also looking at parking expansion. We’re seeing that parking is filling up.”

Concourse expansions are also on the agenda.

“We’re seeing expansion to our aircraft apron out front by the terminal gates,” McConnell said. “That’s to accommodate the aircrafts that we’re seeing. We’re also looking at concourse expansions.”

Officials said these projects will take time.

“In the airport business development is a slow process, but we want to make sure we meet the demands of the public,” McConnell said.

He also said inflation is impacting travel with the cost of jet fuel and ticket prices remaining high.

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