The number of people flying to and from Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport was down in December, but up for the year.
That’s according to the Wichita Airport Authority’s Aviation Activity Report, which said 132,156 passengers arrived or departed from the airport in December. That was 1.4 percent fewer passengers than the 134,020 who used Eisenhower in December 2013.
For the year, 1.53 million passengers flew in and out of Eisenhower, a 1.9 percent increase from 2013, the report said.
“Any time the traffic is up, it is good,” said Valerie Wise, the city’s air service and business development manager.
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The number of airliners departing daily in December 2014 was 34 – the same as in December 2013, the report said. Airlines serving Eisenhower include Allegiant Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines.
Wise said she didn’t know why there were fewer passengers using Eisenhower last month.
Wise said there were 5 percent more airline seats available to passengers at Eisenhower in 2014 compared to 2013. She attributed that increase in seats to Southwest, which in 2014 had a full year of operations at Eisenhower. Southwest acquired AirTran Airlines and in June 2013 started operating in Wichita as Southwest, offering two daily flights to Chicago, two daily flights to Dallas and one daily flight to Las Vegas. AirTran operated three daily flights to Atlanta.
Unlike commercial passenger operations, general aviation and military operations were down by double-digit percentages for the month and the year, according to data from the airport authority.
General aviation operations totaled 4,234 in December 2014, compared with 5,332 in December 2013, a more than 20 percent decline. Total general aviation operations in 2014 were 60,608, a nearly 15 percent decline from 71,115 in 2013.
Military operations were off 15 percent in December 2014 to 2,089, and more than 14 percent for the year.
Those operations can be influenced by several factors, including the number of test flights at Bombardier and Textron Aviation, transient aircraft stopping for fuel, and military aircraft doing touch-and-gos at Eisenhower, officials said.
Lynn Nichols, owner of Yingling Aviation, a fixed-base operater at Eisenhower, said his company’s business from aircraft fuel sales doesn’t jibe with the airport’s general aviation and military operations numbers.
Yingling saw its jet-fuel sales climb about 8 percent from 2013 to 2014. Fuel volume for military and government aircraft was also up in the same period, by nearly 27 percent, he said. Only avgas, which is used primarily by small, piston-engine aircraft, was down. Sales for that declined 4 percent between 2013 and 2014.
“With the exception of avgas, we are seeing an increase,” Nichols said. “We believe with the price of avgas dropping significantly, we will see a rise in (fuel) volume this year,” Nichols said.