Idaho Falls Regional Airport officials are seeing another busy year, as the airport is on pace to accommodate more passengers than last year’s record-setting numbers.
Airport Director Rick Cloutier said the airport increased passenger counts of about 30% from January through March compared to last year. This trend continued through the summer as passenger numbers are about 25% higher than they were in 2021 through the summer, he said.
“Over the last few years, we’ve been adding more flights since pre-COVID. Comparing this year to 2019, we have 85% more departing seats,” Cloutier said. “We have twice as many airlines as we did before COVID and they’re continuing to add flights all the time so people are using that to travel more both in and out of the region.”
The early projection for fall tickets continue to show an increased passenger count when compared to 2021, Cloutier said. Jackson Hole Airport’s closure did contribute to some additional passengers flying through Idaho Falls because of the city’s proximity to Yellowstone but July passenger numbers still were about 25% higher than July 2021, and Jackson Hole reopened at the end of June.
Nearly 450,000 commercial airline passengers used the airport in 2021, breaking Idaho Falls Regional Airport’s previous total passenger record — set in 2019 at 350,000 passengers — in October.
City Public Information Officer Eric Grossarth wrote in a text to the Post Register that passenger numbers from January through July have increased by about 75% compared to 2021, rising to 374,750 from 210,500.
Airport officials also are working on the beginning stages of a future runway reconstruction project in 2024. The City Council approved a design agreement for the runway project as a consent item during its Aug. 25 meeting.
The design work of the project will cost $433,051 and the Federal Aviation Administration will cover $415,360 of the project. According to a March 30 work order, the project will add paved shoulders and blast pads to the runway, replace existing lighting and signs, install a weather information system, and rehabilitate a terminal apron and north apron. An apron is the area of an airport where aircraft are parked, refueled, boarded and maintained.
Cloutier said the project is in its very early stages and he isn’t sure yet if it would require a runway closure. The last time the runway received major reconstruction was in 2008.
“Runways need to be constructed about every 10 or 12 years depending on how much use they’re getting,” Cloutier said. “Over the last 10 years, our operations have increased, so we have larger aircraft and more aircraft here than we did 10 years ago and it raises up to a different level of what’s needed (for the runway).”