A lot of business leaders are breathing a sigh of relief that the latest recession is nothing but a dark memory.
For Appleton International Airport, that relief shows in the numbers.
According to information released by the airport, the grand total of passengers for March of this year was 49,969, which is up 2,765 from March 2015.
The full first quarter numbers look just as promising for the airport, surpassing last year’s January to March totals by 6,934 passengers. Year-to-date totals for enplanements and deplanements at Appleton International airport were 132,922.
“In general, travel is up this year even along the national levels,” says Pat Tracey, marketing manager for Appleton International Airport. “The airlines are forecasting the busiest travel summer in years, so I think as we get farther out of the recession, people are feeling more comfortable about traveling.”
For Appleton, that showed in 2015 when the airport cracked the half-million passenger mark for the first time since 2010, ending the year with 513,000 passengers, Tracey says.
“We have been seeing steady growth every year coming out of the recession and what gets us energized is we are upon that this year through the first quarter and are up 5.5 percent through the end of March,” he says
Austin Straubel International Airport in Green Bay has also seen growth. Its total number of passengers is close to Appleton’s with a total of 47,591 passengers in March. From the months of January through March, the airport saw 125,055 enplaned and deplaned passengers use the airport.
Appleton International Airport Director Abe Weber says the core of Appleton airport’s success for the first quarter has been a focus on programs rolled out within the past couple of years and on an increase of incoming and outgoing traffic.
Bigger planes, more destinations
Airlines like Delta played a big role in the success of higher first-quarter totals.
“We have seen much success onboard Delta Airlines, which is up about 3.6 percent through the first quarter,” Weber says. “They have installed larger aircraft on all of their three destinations out of Appleton: Minneapolis, Detroit and Atlanta.”
The airport also works closely with Allegiant Air, which recently added new destinations to its route.
In November, the airline added a new Clearwater-St. Petersburg service, which brought the airport up about 27 percent on all Allegiant flights for the first quarter.
Tracey says the success is both a product of the new route to the destination as well as upgrading the aircraft on Florida routes to a larger size Airbus that has more seats per flight.
Helping to drive those improved numbers is the airport’s mission to look at what the passenger or customer sees as soon as they step foot onto the property, Weber says.
“We have made a number of enhancements throughout the airport terminal and have implemented many new programs,” Weber says. “The first quarter we had a courtesy shuttle out in our parking lot to pick customers up when we recognized the lot was filling up.”
The airport prides itself for being known as a friendly place to travel from. Surveys have showed a recurring comment that employees from the Transportation Security Administration to restaurant workers and airline personnel are extremely friendly, Weber says.
Also helping with the overall customer experience are special events the airport hosts.
“We do a lot of special events which include a dozen Make a Wish flights a year and we also provide balloons for the Make a Wish Family,” Tracey says. “Our employees are the driving factor for the success because we have a team that appointed themselves as Appleton Airport Ambassadors, where they come to the front door of the airport to welcome the Make a Wish family and are there to help them through TSA and with their luggage.”
For those who may not fly a lot or get apprehensive when it comes to traveling, a program to ease stressful tension has proven to put a smile on many faces.
“We work closely with the Fox Valley Humane Association and through them we have a therapy dog program, which works on different levels,” Weber says.
The airport says it has five teams and each team is comprised of a handler/dog owner and their dog, which is certified as a therapy dog.
In an airport environment, it is not uncommon to seclude yourself from others around you and the therapy dog program helps eliminate that stigma and provides opportunity for customers to interact with the dogs and each other.
“The program facilitates human interaction and it all just builds up into making the airport a friendlier place,” Weber says. “We think this has something to do with our success and the mission to become a preferred airport to fly out of.”