Buffalo Airport Passengers Drop, Falls Rise

December 22, 2011 Updated Dec 22, 2011 at 9:39 AM EDT

By Business First by James Fink, Buffalo Business First Reporter

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Buffalo Airport Passengers Drop, Falls Rise

December 22, 2011 Updated Dec 22, 2011 at 9:39 AM EDT

( Business First ) Schedule adjustments by several major carriers servicing the Buffalo Niagara International Airport resulted in a slight drop of passengers flying in and out of the Cheektowaga facility.

However, at the same time, travelers using Niagara Falls International Airport continue to spiral upwards.

Both trends emerged in the November monthly passenger counts compiled by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, operators of both airports.

In November, Buffalo Niagara International Airport handled 201,286 outbound passengers, a decrease of 2.8 percent from the 207,078 outbound fliers it handled one year ago.

For the year-to-date, the airport handled 2,404,790 outbound passengers, down just 0.51 percent from the 2,417,226 it handled during the first 11 months of 2010.

William Vanecek, NFTA director of aviation, attributed November's decrease to several airlines having seasonally adjusting schedules. United Airlines is one example as the airline reduced the number of weekend flights it operates between Buffalo and Washington, D.C.

"This was not unexpected," he said.

BNIA, however, remains well on track to handle more than 5 million inbound and outbound passengers by the end of the year, Vanecek said. The 5 million-plus passenger count is the NFTA's benchmark for the airport.

"Will we top 5 million (passengers)?," Vanecek said. "Easily."

For the month, Southwest Airlines remains the airport's busiest carrier, handling 28 percent of the outbound passengers. In hard numbers, Southwest saw 56,600 passengers fly out of Buffalo in November, compared with 56,797 last November, a 0.35 percent drop.

In other statistics, the activity of the other airlines showed that:

• JetBlue handled 36,930 outbound fliers, up 3.34 percent from last November's 35,735 passenger count. JetBlue accounted for 18 percent of the airport's fliers.

• Delta has emerged as the third busiest carrier at BNIA, handling 34,654 outbound passengers - up 1.9 percent from the 34,007 outbound fliers who used its service last November. Delta's numbers are expected to increase this spring when it adds more flights between Buffalo and New York City. Delta accounted for 17 percent of the airport's air traffic.

• USAirways, once the dominant carrier at the airport, has slipped to the fourth-busiest local airline, carrying 31,783 outbound passengers, down 5.15 percent from last November when it handled 33,508 outbound passengers. USAirways has approximately 16 percent of the airport's passenger count.

• United had 8 percent of the airport passenger count, handling 16,064 outbound fliers in November, a decrease of 7.74 percent from last year when it had 17,412 passengers.

• AirTran reported a 19.8 percent drop in passenger counts in November, falling from 12,739 fliers to 10,217 passengers. AirTran, now aligned with Southwest, has 5 percent of the airport's passenger count.

• Continental saw a 21.4 percent decrease in passenger count last month, dropping from 11,312 local customers one year ago to 8,891 this year. Continental also has 5 percent of market traffic.

• American Airlines reported a 4.8 percent increase in local outbound fliers with 5,698 people using its service compared with 5,437 outbound fliers one year ago. American has just 3 percent of the airport's passenger count.

In Niagara Falls, passenger counts rose 212.23 percent in November, mostly from increase flights by Direct Air and new service from Spirit Airlines.

In hard numbers, the airport handled 8,858 outbound passengers last month, compared with just 2,837 in November 2010. For the year-to-date, the airport has handled 87,942 outbound fliers, an increase of 190.91 percent from the 30,230 it handled for the first 11 months of 2010.

Direct Air has seen its outbound passenger counts rise 102.39 percent, increasing from 30,230 in the January-to-November period in 2010 to 61,183 this year.

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