FORT SMITH, Ark. --
So far, this year the number of passengers flying in and out of the Fort Smith Regional Airport is down 10 percent compared to the same time period last year.
Airport officials said they hope to regain some of the loss this holiday travel season.
On Thursday, the Fort Smith Airport was quiet. There were no passengers passing through security check points to reach their gates. According to recent airport statistics, this year there have been 7,614 fewer passengers boarding flights.
"A lot of it can placed at the uncertainty in the economy," said John Parker, the airports director. He said the numbers are somewhat misleading due to the recent loss of a direct flight.
"Last year at this time we were also being served by Delta to Atlanta," Parker said. "So overall the numbers will be higher because we've seen a reduction in some capacity."
Comparing numbers from October 2008 to October 2009, the airport saw a decline of 14 percent in passengers boarding flights.
Parker said advance ticket purchases show a promising holiday travel season. He said during November and December the airport hopes to level off declines.
"The airlines seem confident and comfortable," Parker said.
Paul Hatalia landed at the Fort Smith Airport for a business retreat at Baldor.
"As long as there are one or two relatively convenient flights a day, I can make my travel arrangements around them as opposed to trying to find something that's two hours away," Hatalia said.
Parker said as more businesses expand and relocate to Fort Smith the more business the airport will see.
"We will be a beneficiary of that economic increase," Parker said.
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In 2005, Tulsa and Oklahoma City airports saw airlines add flights to popular destinations, such as Orlando, Fla., Denver and Las Vegas.
The number of people traveling through Oklahoma's commercial airports slipped from peak summer levels but posted steady increases overall for the month of August.
It remains to be seen, though, whether holiday passengers can propel the airport out of its recent slump in the number of travelers.
Wilmington airport officials hope to have a new satellite lot near the existing rental-car lot open before the start of the busy holiday travel season.