Record Travel Prompting Airport Improvements

United Airlines’ flights operated by SkyWest Airlines at the Salina Regional Airport have set new records for passenger enplanements. Flights to Denver, Chicago and beyond are at capacity on the 50-seat regional jets that serve Salina. During July 2021 a record 4,642 total passengers traveled to and from Salina on United flights. July 2021 passenger activity exceeded Salina Airport passenger numbers for both 2020 and 2019.

In response to the dramatic increase in passengers, the Salina Airport Authority board of directors approved a $675,000 project to expand and improve passenger seating at the M.J. Kennedy Air Terminal. The concourse improvements will add seating for up to 125 passengers. The project will also improve access and use of the TSA’s passenger screening checkpoint. A second phase of construction will include new concourse restrooms.

“Numbers are off the charts,” said Gary Foss, managing partner of the ArkStar Group, the Salina Airport Authority’s air service consultant.

“Things are a lot better than they were last year at this time,” he said.

July 2021 total passengers (4,642) were up 509% versus July 2020, Foss reported. July 2021 total passenger count was up 14% compared to July 2019.

United nonstop flights to Denver and Chicago are running at close to 75% capacity, Rogers said, including a record 79% load-factor in the fourth week of July.

Luci Larson is relishing these times as co-owner of Action Travel, 116 S. Seventh. “It’s like someone flipped a switch back in March and it’s been a gold rush,” Larson said. “Floodgates opened, and we’ve not slowed down since.”

Larson was early in her travel agent career during the previous flight bonanza more than four decades ago, but those times don’t compare with today.

“I can’t remember demand being as high as it is right now,” she said.

In many cases, Salina is winning on fares.

“Anytime anyone calls us, they right away want to know what the rates are out of Wichita and Kansas City. They assume that’s where they’ll find the bargain basement rates,” Larson said. “I tell my customers, ‘Hang on just a minute,’ and one out of three times, Salina has beaten them. There have been a few times where it’s been a little higher, but it is so worth it not having to drive somewhere.”.

She has also reported booking a number of international, transatlantic trips.

“The flights match up great in and out of Salina” Larson said. “On some of the maps we use, we have a star. We are no longer a little dot. Nobody asks me anymore what the code is for Salina. They recognize SLN.

“It’s a win-win all the way,” she said. “I’m happy, but oh my gosh, have we been busy.”