The Victoria Regional Airport is on a roll as more people are choosing to fly instead of drive from Victoria for business or vacation trips.
Ridership of the air service from Victoria Regional Airport to Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston is on track to reach 10,000 enplanements this year, a goal the airport has had for many years.
This is good news for the small regional airport, which has worked for years to attract more customers.
In May, enplanements reached four digits, 1,047, for the first time in more than 15 years. Through the first five months of the year, 3,944 people flew from Victoria to Houston, more than half the total for all last year.
Ridership was also up in April and May with 873 and 849 enplanements, respectively.
Airport officials are encouraged by this increase in use by Crossroads residents. And they should be.
They encourage people to continue to use the service to keep the trend going in the positive direction.
If the ridership pace continues, the airport could reach the 10,000 enplanements level, which is the magic number for the FAA to fund them $1 million to be used in the upkeep and operation of the facility.
This is in addition to the $40 million to $50 million the airport is receiving from the federal agency in grants to make needed improvements to the aging facility, which was built during World War II to train pilots.
The closest the airport has gotten to 10,000 enplanements was in 2008 when 8,364 people hopped a plane from Victoria, according to airport information.
Using the regional airport to start a vacation or business trip makes sense. Riders can park for free, make the short flight to Houston to catch their connecting flight. With SkyWest’s partnership with United, passengers’ luggage is checked through to their connecting flights, so it is waiting for them at their destination.
With two departing flights a day, passengers have more choices in setting up their flight schedules with connecting flights.
Screening lines are short, compared to the larger airports. There is no confusion about which gate the plane is boarding from.
And chances are you will know some of the other passengers on the plane.
Once you arrive in Houston you do not have to go through the screening process again.
Having the regional air service is important to businesses throughout the Crossroads who use the service to get employees to and from meetings and to bring in potential clients and industry officials.
In the six years airport manager Lenny Llerena has been at the job, he has worked to make needed improvements, to get more equitable funding from the FAA, while making the facility more attractive for use by the public.
With the increased use, those improvements are being noticed.
The airport has a $44.7 million economic impact on the county and city. Supporting 171 jobs, it has total earnings of $11.4 million and has a $3.7 million fiscal (tax) impact.
If the community continues to support the airport, that impact will only grow.
He is also working to rebuild the runway, which has been in place since World War II. Because it was built so quickly during that time, building practices were not consistent, so now after almost eight decades of use it needs to be reworked and built evenly.
He is working to get the terminal replaced as it has become outdated. Equipment needed today for TSA does not fit in well with the space available, causing crowded conditions.
In addition, airport officials have identified three areas outside of the aviation area that can be developed for commercial use.
With all this activity at the airport, the airport is growing and becoming more important to the Crossroads.
That is why it is important for the public to use the service.