Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Airport on Track to Break Record

July 15, 2019
In 2017, the airport set a record with 268,197 departures. If the airport only attracts the same numbers for the last seven months of this year that it did last year, it will beat that record by almost 19,000.

PITTSTON TWP. — Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport is on track to smash a departure record set two years ago, part of a pattern of soaring popularity thanks in part to additional flights and bigger planes.

In 2017, the airport set a record with 268,197 departures. If the airport only attracts the same numbers for the last seven months of this year that it did last year, it will beat that record by almost 19,000.

AVP, the airport’s Federal Aviation Administration tag, will likely do better than that. Odds are, the airport will cross the 300,000 departure mark for the first time. That’s well on the way to the 335,000 by 2035, projected in the draft of its latest master plan.

There’s a variety of reasons for departure numbers taking off. When Allegiant Air pulled out in January 2018, other airlines stepped up. They added new flights to Charlotte, Philadelphia and Chicago and sent in larger planes with more seats.

Even with the additional flights and bigger planes, the airport’s load factor — the percentage of available seats sold each month — remains consistently above 83% in an industry where 70% is considered respectable.

“Our passengers are up 22% (in May) and our seats are up 20%,” said Carl Beardsley Jr., who has been the airport’s director since January 2015. “That means we’re growing faster than the seat availability.”

The airport has also succeeded in drawing many new customers from towns around Binghamton, New York, whose airport has taken a major hit the last few years as airlines pulled out. Back in 2000, Binghamton’s airport had almost 60%as many departures as the local airport. By 2017, that was down to 12%. In 2017, Binghamton had only 33,425 departures, not that many more than the local airport had last month.

Like other airports, the local one benefits from a strong economy that produces increased air travel, but the nation has had strong economic times and the airport never reached these heights.

Local officials credit Beardsley’s aggressive approach in recruiting airlines and courting companies that send employees out to travel.

“He’s a pit bull,” said Bob Durkin, president of the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce. “He seems like an unassuming guy to a lot of people but he knows this business.”

Tobyhanna Army Depot employees use the airport about 1,000 times a year, mostly to Charlotte and Atlanta, said Kristyn Smith. She did not know how that compares to earlier years, but said depot officials hear from Beardsley regularly. He asks about destinations employees need to reach, then looks for ways of getting them there.

“Carl’s been here at least two or three times over the last two or three years,” Smith said.

Beardsley said he wants to know what customers want because he reports that to airlines. He regularly talks with airlines to point out departure growth and growth opportunities.

“And, they see what we’re doing in their own records,” said Beardsley, who notes the numbers the airport reports monthly come from the airlines. “So, we’re simply reinforcing what they’re seeing. And, on top of that, we tell them about growth in the business world. Because they want to make sure that they maximize their customers, especially (customers) from a business standpoint.”

Beardsley likes to say the sky’s the limit for passenger growth but all the departures have increased pressure on the airport to find more parking. It recently opened two new surface lots.

“Before we put in these overflow lots, on a regular basis, we were at capacity ... probably a couple of times a month,” he said.

He sees room for more growth if the airport can regain the direct flights to Florida that disappeared when Allegiant pulled out.

Allegiant flew to Tampa and Orlando. Boscov’s runs 16 excursions a year to Orlando through Delta Airlines at the airport, Beardsley said, but he wants a more permanent schedule.

“We’ve had good meetings recently,” he said, declining to name the potential airline. “Very good meetings.”

Contact the writer:

[email protected]; 570-348-9147;

@BorysBlogTT on Twitter


©2019 The Times-Tribune (Scranton, Pa.)

Visit The Times-Tribune (Scranton, Pa.) at thetimes-tribune.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.