Jamie Taylor/river news
Passengers who arrived on the first seasonal midday flight into the Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport Friday, June 14, 2019, wait for their baggage to emerge on the baggage carousel in the Robert G. Heck Passenger Terminal.
6/17/2019 4:40:00 PM New midday flight draws travelers to Rhinelander airport First flight took off Friday
The weather wasn't exactly summerlike when the first midday SkyWest flight arrived at the Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport from Minneapolis Friday, but the first of the airport's new seasonal summer flights was full of travelers anyway.
Airport director Matt Leitner saw the arrival of the flight - which came in 10 minutes early - as a ray of sunshine for the airport and the community as 48 of its 50 seats were occupied. When the flight left again, about 45 minutes later, it was also close to capacity, Leitner said. Online advanced booking shows the positive trend should continue, he added.
"This afternoon is full, or close to it, which is north of 40, more than 80 percent," Leitner said. "And likewise for tonight and tomorrow it's a continual trend."
According to Leitner, the occupancy on the new flight is both seasonal and people looking to get into the area sooner.
"I think with the additional offerings, a lot of people are coming back that we otherwise wouldn't have had using our airport," he said. "They would have gone down to wherever, CWA (Central Wisconsin Airport in Mosinee) because it is more convenient."
The increase in passengers will help the airport's bottom line due to more revenue from federal fees generated, he added.
"I'm confident that with the increased passenger facility charges, we use that for capital improvement projects and vehicles and stuff like that, even a conservative estimate, we'll see at least an additional five figures because of this flight," Leitner said.
Leitner also said he is hopeful that, due to the increased traffic to and from the Twin Cities, Delta might extend the extra flight past its scheduled Aug. 31 end date.
"I think they realize this is a burgeoning market," Leitner said. "But right now, additional traffic from an airline is difficult to come by, and they prioritize that, and we were high on the priority list. Advanced booking data looks good, so we're certainly committed to its success, and I think they (Delta) are too. And in the end, I believe it will be, but I can't speak for any commitments they may have."
For the third flight to continue, the airline would have to commit the aircraft and crew to the flight, and doing so might take a flight away from somewhere else, he noted.
"I'm just grateful for everyone's support," Leitner said. "We certainly didn't do this alone, and the community and the region has certainly been supportive, and we're seeing that, and they're out here."
Jackie Koch, manager of the Avis & Budget rental car vendor location at the airport, said there was an uptick in demand for vehicles Friday.
"We had a (semi) truck bring in an additional fleet for today and the weekend," Koch said. "It's pretty busy with the addition of the third flight. We've seen a great deal of additional activity, so we'll be bringing in additional fleet for the renters."
She said passengers can either pre-book cars or come up to the counter without a reservation and rent a vehicle.
"We always recommend to pre-book, that way you are guaranteed to have a car," she said, noting that the increase in business is good news for the two companies.
"We're really excited for the trend, it's certainly helping business on both brands, Avis and Budget," Koch said. "But additionally, to see the traffic for the community increases is something that is very exciting for us, as well."
According to Koch, the number of cars rented is not tracked by flight.
"It fluctuates, we can have days where it's pretty quiet and we only have a few rentals," she said. "We don't really gauge from flight to flight, we do more for the day and week. But we are seeing an significant increase to where it is one-and-a-half to two times with adding this flight."
She added that rental business tends to be seasonal at the Rhinelander airport.
"People who come in, they come in for their cabins, boating and fishing," she said. "So we see a lot more people coming in late on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, leaving typically late Sunday or Mondays."
She called Delta's decision to add the flight "a great business decision" and hopes that the rental service can continue to accommodate the increased demand. The new flight leaves Minneapolis at 10:07 a.m. and arrives in Rhinelander at 11:21 a.m. It departs Rhinelander at 11:46 a.m. and arrives back in Minneapolis at 1:02 p.m.
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