St. Pete-Clearwater airport sees increase in traffic
CLEARWATER - St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport reported a 6 percent increase in traffic in April to 86,521 passengers. That's a rare report these days as airports nationwide grapple with a travel decline blamed on the economy. Year-to-date travel remains 7 percent below the same period a year ago with 318,411 passengers. But airport director Noah Lagos predicts the Pinellas County-owned airport will finish the year with between 700,000 and 725,000 passengers, nearly flat from the 740,000-plus passengers the past two years, but nearly twice as many as in 2006 and about 100,000 more than in 2005. "Allegiant Air continues to grow in the market and USA 3000 will continue to grow," Lagos said.USA 3000, which pulled out from Pinellas in August when fuel prices soared, resumed Pinellas-Chicago service from December through April and currently offers flights to Cleveland and St. Louis. Allegiant serves 19 cities from the Pinellas airport. Consistent with its strategy of honing its schedule to focus on when and where it can show a profit, it will temporarily curtail service to nine destinations during the slow, local travel season beginning in August and September. Allegiant reported its planes system wide flew 90.3 percent full in April. One sign of Allegiant's attention to detail is that officials have told Lagos that although the Pinellas airport plans to install two jet bridges by year's end, Allegiant will continue to use loading ramps that provide quicker passenger boarding and unloading. SeaCoast Airlines offers flights between Pinellas and Key West. The Beau Rivage Resort provides service to Gulfport-Biloxi, Miss., with Allegiant aircraft. The airport last month qualified for $5.35 million in federal stimulus funds it will use to improve and renovate the terminal, which is undergoing a $12 million improvement project. The stimulus program will create 44 construction jobs at an average age of $25 an hour.
Reporter Ted Jackovics can be reached at (813) 259-7817.