Although only one-tenth as busy as Phoenix's Sky Harbor airport (the nation's 5th busiest), Tucson's airport traffic grew an impressive 10% this past fiscal year, and would grow even faster if more Tucsonans didn't fly out of Phoenix. TIA just completed a $65M terminal expansion and is scheduled to improve and remodel the concourses in 2006.
A new website now promotes the best Tucson airfares, encouraging locals to use TIA: http://www.airtucson.com/
Tucson airport tops 4 million passengers, for first time
By Philip S. Moore, Inside Tucson Business
Posted: Friday, Nov 04, 2005 - 01:39:25 pm MST
Three years after seeing the largest declines in its history, Tucson International Airport this year is setting record gains, with more than four million passengers passing through the terminal. It’s the first time in the airport’s 78-year history it has passed the four million mark.
In a Nov. 1 report to the Tucson Airport Authority Board of Directors, Richard Gruentzel, director of Finance, said the airport ended the fiscal year, Sept. 30, earning $33.3 million, 8 percent more than a year ago and 5 percent more than the airport’s financial staff forecast for this year.
Passenger volume was up 10 percent this year with 4,041,309 arriving and departing passengers, Gruentzel said.
There were additional flights for the passengers to take, he said. Delta Air Lines added a third daily round-trip to Atlanta and three additional flights to Salt Lake City. American Airlines added an eighth round-trip to Dallas-Ft. Worth. Southwest Airlines introduced new service to Chicago Midway Airport and a fifth flight to Las Vegas. America West also added two flights a day to Las Vegas.
“We just keep building momentum,” Gruentzel said.
Landing fees were also up, as is revenue from concessions, which jumped 12.25 percent over budget estimates and 10 percent higher than the previous year’s total.
“This increase is primarily the result of an increase in rental car revenue for 2005 to $617,000 as well as $67,000 in food and beverage revenue, which was also higher than fiscal 2004,” he said.
In addition, net parking lot fees were $5.96 million, 9 percent greater than last year and 14 percent higher than budgeted.
Gruentzel noted that 2005 gains were helped by operating expenses, which came in 9 percent below budget at $24.46 million, an increase of only 1 percent over fiscal 2004. Personnel expenses were 4 percent under budget, and fees for contractual services were 22.3 percent below the 2005 budget. While this was offset, in part, by a 1 percent increase in materials and supplies, largely due to an increase in gasoline costs, other operating expenses slid 14 percent, due to lower insurance premiums.
As a result, the flightline operating gross margin was $1.49 million, a 2 percent decline from fiscal 2004, but 13.28 percent better than budgeted for fiscal 2005, and net income from operations was $14.7 million, more than $5 million greater than the budget of $9.68 million, Gruentzel said.
While the news would be better if the airline industry wasn’t in turmoil, “things are looking up,” said airport authority President Bonnie Allin.
“More and more airlines are looking at coming here, which, for us, is exceptionally good news. We’ve been very much motivated to market our services and community and this is the result,” she said. “A large part of what we do is market our services, including concession, car rental and general aviation. It takes time to open that up, but we’re seeing a lot more people interested in flying through Tucson.”
If general aviation could increase as rapidly, she said the news for Tucson Airport Authority would be perfect. “That’s why we’re working to add capacity.”
Anticipating growth has been an ongoing process, including anticipating what needs to be done if growth comes faster than expected, said Michael Harris, chairman of the airport authority board.
Harris said doing this is more challenging in Tucson because of Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, which reported a 4.8 percent increase during the previous 12 months to 40,786,274 arriving and departing passengers, between September 2004 and August 2005.
Although Sky Harbor is handling 10 times the volume of Tucson’s airport, even small changes in local passenger choice can make big differences for Tucson.
“A million people a year go to Phoenix to get on a plane. We want them to fly out of here. However, if even half of them decided to come here, we couldn’t handle them, right now,” Harris said.
Tucson is a dynamic market, in part, because of the airport, while the airport grows, in part, because of the city’s growth, he said.
“People and business follow runways. If you want an area to grow, build the capacity. They, in turn, will create demand for the air service.”
He said, “The resources are here if they’re properly managed. That’s why we emphasize good planning. That way we’re always thinking ahead, so we don’t have a crisis.”