Lincoln Airport swings to profit

Strength in industrial park operations helps bottom line.

Thanks to a strong performance by its industrial park, the Lincoln Airport reversed its fortunes to the tune of nearly $240,000 this year.

For its fiscal year that ended June 30, the airport earned more than $187,000 from direct operations, compared with a nearly $52,000 loss in fiscal year 2006.

The airport also trimmed its overall operating loss after accounting for general and administrative costs, depreciation and equipment to a little more than $3.7 million, down from nearly $4.6 million last year.

A more than $400,000 increase in revenue from the Air Park industrial park and a smaller increase in general aviation revenue more than offset a decrease in revenue from commercial airline operations.

An audit by BKD LLP that was presented to Airport Authority Board members Thursday said the airport "remains on a sound financial footing" despite "economic challenges highlighted by a continued slide in airline passenger traffic."

The slide in airline passengers has been caused largely by service issues with Northwest Airlink, which last year dropped a daily flight to Detroit and earlier this year dropped one of its five daily departures to Minneapolis.

Cancellations also have been a problem with the airline.

Northwest canceled two more flights to Minneapolis on Thursday, bringing the number of canceled flights to that city since Monday to eight, which is half the schedule.

Though United has not had nearly the problems as Northwest, the airline has reduced the number of seats out of Lincoln, also contributing to the decline in passenger numbers.

The one bright spot has been Allegiant Airlines, which has been filling about 90 percent of the seats on its two weekly flights to Las Vegas since it switched to a Thursday-Sunday schedule in April from a Wednesday-Saturday schedule.

Allegiant might be the airport's best chance for expanded service.

The low-fare airline recently added two more "focus" cities, one of which is Phoenix - a very popular destination with Lincoln fliers.

Allegiant initially plans to offer service to Phoenix from 13 cities in the West and Midwest. Lincoln does not appear to be in line to be among the first 13. But John Wood, the Lincoln Airport's executive director, said, "We'll continue to talk to them to see if we can get on their list."

Wood also said discussions are continuing with Trans States Airlines, a regional carrier with American Airlines, about adding flights from Lincoln to St. Louis.

And Wood revealed that airport officials have talked with Delta Air Lines, although he conceded that they have had discussions on and off with Delta for several years.

One plan airport officials are discussing as a possible incentive to keep existing flights and entice airlines to add others is offering ground services such as baggage handling and ticketing, which have the potential to reduce airlines' costs.

Currently, airlines either use their own employees or contract out those services.

Some smaller airports, such as those in Toledo, Ohio, and Springfield, Mo., have begun offering those services, and so far they have been successful, said Bob McNally, director of operations at the Lincoln Airport.

Reach Matt Olberding at 473-2647 or