By Carla O’Day
Airline seat capacity and number of total passengers into Reno increased last year and numbers are projected to grow in the future, according to a presentation on Thursday from the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority to the Reno Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority (RSCVA).
Two-way seat capacity into Reno-Tahoe International Airport was up to 4.6 million in 2016 from 4.3 million and 4.15 million in 2015 and 2014, respectively. That number is projected to increase to 5 million in 2017, 5.2 million in 2018 and 5.4 million in 2019.
The airport served 3.65 million passengers in 2016, up from 3.43 million in 2015 and 3.31 million in 2014. However, the airport had more than 5 million passengers annually a decade ago.
About one-third of passengers were lost during the recession, airport authority CEO Marily Mora told the RSCVA board.
“Where did they go?” asked board member John Farahi.
“They began driving,” Mora replied.
But that could be changing as non-stop flights to and from Orange County on Alaska Airlines began in March 2016, Oakland flights on Southwest were added in June 2016, and JetBlue flights to Long Beach started in August 2016. Additionally, Southwest flights between Reno and San Jose began this month.
The year-over-year airport passenger count the first quarter of 2017 is up 10 percent from last year.
Mora also touted recent non-stop air service additions this year, including a Chicago-O’Hare flight on United Airlines and flights to Dallas-Love Field on Southwest Airlines, along with seasonal service on Delta to Atlanta.
“When we start seasonal service, the goal is to get to daily service,” Mora said.
The airport authority is also trying to get direct flights into and out of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, she said.
“It’s one thing to get these flights, but we need to use it or lose it,” Mora said. “We need the support of the community with these flights.”
Later on in the meeting, RSCVA board members unanimously approved increasing financial support from $100,000 to $150,000 to the Reno Tahoe Regional Air Service Committee, which brings together organizations and businesses to market the region.
RSCVA chairman Bob Lucey said it’s crucial to support Reno getting such flights because they bring in conventions and business. He suggested the board might consider contributing additional dollars to the air service committee at a later date.
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Carla has an undergraduate degree in journalism and more than 10 years experience as a daily newspaper reporter. She grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., moved to the Reno area in 2002 and wrote for the Reno Gazette-Journal for 8 years, covering a variety of topics. Prior to that, she covered local government in Fort Pierce, Fla.