Gulfport-Biloxi airport executive director believes 2015 will me - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Gulfport-Biloxi airport executive director believes 2015 will mean more passengers

Last year, the number of passengers flying into and out of the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport hit the lowest level since the turn of the century. (Photo source: WLOX) Last year, the number of passengers flying into and out of the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport hit the lowest level since the turn of the century. (Photo source: WLOX)
The airport's executive director said the average difference in cost between Gulfport-Biloxi and New Orleans is around $60 a ticket. Booking four to six weeks in advance is key. (Photo source: WLOX) The airport's executive director said the average difference in cost between Gulfport-Biloxi and New Orleans is around $60 a ticket. Booking four to six weeks in advance is key. (Photo source: WLOX)
Currently, four major airlines fly 14 to 21 flights a day into and out of Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport. (Photo source: WLOX) Currently, four major airlines fly 14 to 21 flights a day into and out of Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport. (Photo source: WLOX)
GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The number of passengers flying into and out of the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport has decreased the past four years. Last year, the number of passengers hit the lowest level since the turn of the century.

The airport's executive director, Clay Williams, said there are a number of reasons. Cost is one of them.

"The average cost of an airline ticket in the United States was $509," Williams said. "Your business passenger may pay that because he or she has got to be somewhere for their company that they are working for, but the leisure traveler, that hits them very hard."

Williams said not having a low cost carrier drives some fliers to bigger airports. Williams said the average difference in cost between Gulfport-Biloxi and New Orleans is around $60 a ticket. Booking four to six weeks in advance is key.

"We have got low fares in this market," Williams said. "They have just got to book early to be able to obtain those because there are not as many as you may find at a larger airport."

Airport leaders have increased advertising and are taking advantage of social media to try and boost traffic. More passengers could equal more carriers. Another way leaders try to entice more airlines is through incentives. Williams said he is constantly pushing for incentives through legislation, grants, and even with restore act money.

"Last year the air service development bill was endorsed by the Mississippi Airport Association. That would incentivize air service in commercial markets across Mississippi," Williams said. "We need to get that funded this year. We are actually asking for funds from the legislature to do that, which would actually abate some of an airlines' initial risk in coming into the market."

But even without new airlines, Williams said 2015 is looking positive.

"We expect an increase, and one of the reasons we do is because the airline, we get their schedule several months out. They are adding seats in this market over the next several months," Williams said.

Delta also recently started flying larger planes into and out of the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport.

Currently, four major airlines fly 14 to 21 flights a day into and out of Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport. Also Beau Rivage and Harrah's Casino have partnerships with two other airlines that make around 22 flights a month.

Below are the passenger counts from Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport since 2000.

2014662,428
2013736,902
2012
766,087
2011782,023
2010893,572
2009800,742
2008974,861
2007911,263
2006797,845
2005770,848
2004873,378
2003857,888
2002799,516
2001839,883
2000949,229

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