Commercial passenger traffic at Durango-La Plata County Airport increased to almost 400,000 arrivals and departures in 2019, making it the airport’s busiest year on record.
Passenger traffic increased to 390,506 combined arrivals and departures, which is about 12,000, or 3%, more passengers than in 2018. The airport has grown into the primary regional airport for the Four Corners, and it is making moves to continue expanding its services.
“Last year was outstanding for us. December alone saw a 6.8% increase in passenger traffic over the previous year – easily a record for the month,” said Tony Vicari, the director of aviation, in a news release issued Thursday by the city of Durango. He added that records also were set in the months of March, June and July.
The airport has seen a 120% increase in commercial passenger traffic since 2003 and a 32% increase from 2009 to 2019, Vicari said in an interview.
In 2019, it offered daily nonstop flights to Dallas, Denver and Phoenix. It also offered summer nonstop service to Los Angeles, and two new markets – Chicago and Houston.
The airlines servicing Durango showed signs of growth even with challenging environmental factors.
For example, the number of flight cancellations, 115, more than doubled last year because of harsh snowstorms and summer thunderstorms, compared with 2018 cancellations.
In 2018, 1.8% more passengers flew into or out of Durango compared with 2017, despite impacts from the 416 Fire on the regional economy.
Still, American Airlines increased its seat capacity by 19% compared with 2018. United Airlines, the narrow market-share leader at the airport, increased its seat capacity by 5%.
“The continued growth we’re seeing will help us market Durango to airlines currently serving (the Durango airport) as well as other airlines seeking opportunities to expand their route networks,” Vicari said in the release.
Millions in projectsAlso in 2019, the Durango airport improved its terminal in a $1.7 million project, funded entirely through its enterprise funds.
It moved forward with a $3.9 million contract to expand its acreage. The plan, funded through an airport-user fee, will allow for passenger vehicle parking expansion, rental car facilities and a circulation road or airport road realignment. In November, the Federal Aviation Administration announced it would give Durango a $2.5 million supplemental FAA grant in funding for the project.
The airport also secured $6.8 million in federal funding for reconstruction of a portion of its 9,200-foot taxiway.
What’s next?Durango airport expects to adopt a “Terminal Area Plan” study in April, which will formalize a 20-year development plan for the terminal and support infrastructure. In 2019, it invested $270,000 toward the plan.
“That’s exciting for us because it gives us a road map for how we’re going to develop the terminal over a 20-year period to match growth,” Vicari said.
In June, the airport will begin construction to expand the 10,000-square-yard parking apron for commercial aircraft, funded by a $1.82 million FAA grant. It will also improve its restrooms, pavement and airport water and wastewater systems.
“It’s the start of a new decade,” Vicari said. “We’re focused on meeting the needs of travelers to and from the Four Corners area and accommodating the growing demands of the ever-evolving airline industry.”