Frontier Airlines' departure from the Colorado Springs Airport in April helped to send passenger traffic plummeting in May, triggering the biggest drop in boardings since just after the nation's Sept. 11 attacks.
The number of passengers who boarded flights totaled 56,955 in May, falling 22.1 percent from the same month a year earlier, according to a report posted last week on the airport's website. It was the largest year-over-year decline in passenger traffic since October 2001.
Frontier ended service to the Springs on April 7; the carrier's departure accounted for more than three-fourths of May's decline.
Allegiant Air and Delta Air Lines also reported fewer passengers in May from a year earlier after axing routes to Phoenix and Minneapolis-St. Paul, respectively.
United Airlines, meanwhile, was the only carrier to report a traffic increase in May.
During the first five months of the year, passenger traffic is down 11.7 percent from the same period last year to 271,911.
Airport officials are forecasting that Frontier's departure will accelerate a steady decline in passenger numbers, reducing this year's total to a 22-year low. That projection, however, was made before Alaska Airlines announced plans to begin a daily flight to Seattle in November.
Dan Gallagher, the airport's interim director, said Thursday passenger numbers should have stabilized last month, when Delta added a second daily flight to Atlanta on a seasonal basis and began using a larger aircraft on its other flight.
The airport is taking several steps to boost marketing and encourage more local travelers to use the Springs airport, he added.
"Our goal right now is to help the airlines fill empty seats on their flights, market their service and show community support to give them the best chance to be profitable here," Gallagher said.
Mayor Steve Bach said Thursday that May's decline wasn't surprising with Frontier's departure from the Springs, which he added was likely to continue until the Alaska Airlines flights begin.
During his "State of the City" address at a Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance luncheon, Bach said the airport could be "a powerful economic development tool" and added that an Airport Air Service Task Force, will try to persuade airlines to offer more flights at lower fares to more nonstop destinations.
That task force, formed last month, is being headed by El Pomar Foundation CEO Bill Hybl and includes four other key civic leaders.
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