ECP officials anticipate that ridership will remain strong

BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) – Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport in Bay County experienced an unprecedented 1.6 million passengers in 2021.

“Last week we reported to the airport board that we were slightly below our numbers from ’21, but as we talked about, ’21 was unprecedented in the amount of activity we had,” said ECP Deputy Executive Director Richard A. McConnell.

Experts say Florida’s relaxed pandemic rules brought more people into the state. That’s why McConnell suspects it will bring fewer passengers this year.

“We’re thinking it will be somewhere between 1.2 million passengers in 2019 and 1.6 million passengers in 2021.”

ECP officials said the fall season is expected to be stable despite expected seasonal reductions in airport traffic. However, McConnell said expanding the airport to meet demand is a top priority.

“We have projects right now, expansion projects, that are earmarked for our baggage claim area where your baggage goes to the front of the plane,” McConnell said. “We are also looking at expanding parking. We’re seeing the parking lot fill up.”

The expansion of the competition is also on the agenda.

“We are seeing expansion in our aircraft apron forward from the terminal gates,” McConnell said. “This is to accommodate the aircraft we are seeing. We are also looking at contest extensions.”

Officials said these projects will take time.

“At the airport, business development is a slow process, but we want to make sure we meet the demands of the public,” McConnell said.

He also said inflation is affecting travel with the cost of jet fuel and ticket prices remaining high.

Copyright 2022 WJHG. All rights reserved.

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