Tulsa, OKC Airports See Growth

Air passenger traffic through Will Rogers World Airport and Tulsa International Airport continues to grow with even larger figures expected into the summer, airport officials said.

The number of passengers getting on planes at the Oklahoma City airport for the first three months of the year increased 6.6 percent over 2005 figures for the same quarter, spokeswoman Karen Carney said. March's boarding passengers alone totaled about 160,000, compared with 145,000 for March 2005, a 10.3-percent increase.

"Woo-hoo," she said. "This is a record month for us, with several factors contributing: spring break, the NCAA national wrestling championship, and Pre-Paid Legal's huge business conference in Oklahoma City. These three things, combined with a general growth trend in travel, contributed to one of the biggest months we've ever had. "

In Tulsa, passengers getting on planes for the first quarter grew by 5.5 percent over the same 2005 period, from about 334,000 to 352,000 travelers. In March alone, passengers increased from about 129,000 to 137,000, a 6.4-percent increase.

The airline accounting for the most traffic through Tulsa was Southwest Airlines with 32.8 percent of passengers. American Airlines was second with 24.1 percent of the airport's passenger traffic.

In Oklahoma City, Southwest Airlines accounted for 28.9 percent of passenger traffic, while American Airlines was responsible for 12.6 percent.

Although enplanements and deplanements - passengers boarding planes and arriving - tracked closely to each other for March at Will Rogers, the comparison with March 2005 numbers creates an odd discrepancy: Enplanements increased 10.3 percent over the previous year, while deplanements increased 5.8 percent.

In other words, Will Rogers saw a larger percentage increase in people leaving the city than arriving, a 6,000-passenger difference.

However, Carney explained that the airport's running tally through a year fails to show monthly overlaps when a surge of tourism enters the area one month and leaves the next. That proved to be the case in January, when December holiday travelers returned home to the Oklahoma City metro area after New Years Day.

"By the end of the year, we'll be in balance again," she said. "It happens every once and a while with certain events ? college students during spring break is a good example, or soldiers coming to Fort Sill. "

She said the airport is anticipating another good month with the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon drawing several hundred people from around the world, in addition to the downtown Festival of the Arts and the U.S. Gymnastics Junior Olympic Women's National Championship.

But with the gymnastics event concluding April 30, many of those visitors may not count as enplanements leaving the city until the next month's airport figures are reported.

"These are the kinds of things that are contributing to growth in Oklahoma City air travel," Carney said. "It's because we're able to attract more events or our existing events are getting bigger and attracting more national attention. So it's not just good for the airport, but good for the community as well. "

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