Airports' Traffic Increases in Oklahoma

Oct. 14--Airports in Oklahoma saw a steady increase in the number of passengers departing from their gates in September.

Passenger departures from Will Rogers World Airport increased by 6.3 percent last month compared with August, according to numbers compiled by the airport.

For the year, passenger departures were up by 7.8 percent as about 1.3 million people boarded planes for other cities from the gates at Will Rogers.

"It's been beyond our expectations," said Karen Carney, airport spokeswoman. "People continue to fly. Even though the airlines are having trouble, there are still good fares out there."

September's figures include people who traveled by air over the Labor Day weekend, evacuees fleeing Hurricane Rita and passengers who were rerouted through Oklahoma City when airports in Houston shut down for Rita.

"We weren't happy about having a disaster contribute to our enplanements, but some of that was people coming to Oklahoma City to be with friends and relatives," Carney said. "Labor Day was a bit of a surprise. Traditionally it's a weekend when people stay close to home, but all the airlines were very full."

In Tulsa, the number of people boarding planes at Tulsa International Airport has been increasing over the last year since airlines added about 8.7 percent more seats, said Mary Smith, spokeswoman.

Passenger traffic in Tulsa increased by 5 percent in September compared with August, according to the airport's figures. For the year, the number of people leaving the city increased by 5.5 percent to 1.1 million.

"The economy in Tulsa has gotten better in the last two years," said Smith. "It's the chicken and the egg thing."

The airport has increased its daily departures from 73 last year to 81 this year. That gives the airport 7,166 daily seats out of Tulsa, Smith said.

Traffic at Lawton-Fort Sill Regional Airport also increased in September. That community of about 94,000 saw its passenger departures on American Eagle flights to Dallas increase by 6.5 percent in September compared with August numbers. About 8,980 military personnel are permanently stationed at Fort Sill and often use the airport, said Barbara Whittington, airport manager.

For the year, traffic at the Lawton- Fort Sill Airport was up by about 5.8 percent, with a total of 34,595 people flying.

For each departing passenger, the airports receive between $3 and $4.50 in passenger facilities charges. Those fees are used to pay for airport projects and maintenance.

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