The Dubuque Regional Airport continues to attract more passengers. But is the momentum strong enough to draw another air carrier?
The airport is talking to two carriers right now, said Robert Grierson, manager of the airport.
The number of people "flying Dubuque" has increased an average of more than 16 percent this year over last year. Every month was in double digits except for April, which saw an increase of nearly 8 percent.
"Nationwide, most airlines have seen an increase, but these numbers far exceed the FAA projections," Grierson said.
The airport is served by American Eagle with four daily flights to Chicago O'Hare Sunday through Friday, and three on Saturday.
The push is on to find another hub connection, preferably one to the South or West.
"We need to focus on an air carrier who's not in bankruptcy, who is in expansion mode," Grierson said.
Without naming names, Grierson said local officials have made trips to Minnesota, Washington, D.C. and plan a trip south to talk with potential air carriers.
"This is a challenging time for air carriers. They have had a couple of profitable quarters, but they have also had a number of unprofitable years," he said.
In the Dubuque airport's favor is its load factor - the percentage of paying passengers per flight, which is at 77 percent.
"The airlines like to see that (passengers) over 70 percent. We're there," he said.
Grierson isn't the only one who receives comments about additional air connections.
"One of the things we are always asked is how accessible are we," said Sue Czeshinski, director of the Dubuque Convention and Visitors Bureau, an arm of the Dubuque Area Chamber of Commerce.
"We are always getting comments from our business members that access to the West is an important factor in their ability to do business in Dubuque," she said.
Grierson has to do double duty on marketing with little money to work with. He has to show positive numbers to potential air carriers while singing a new tune to tri-state air travelers about the Dubuque Regional Airport.
"Actually, the old tune was if you don't use it, you lose it," he said. "Now that people are using it, we could hopefully utilize the information to justify an expansion of air service."
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Local business travelers in particular have been clamoring for more destinations and greater flight frequency.
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