After a COVID induced lull, fewer people are shying away from taking to the air locally.
Figures from last month show a rebound in travelers alighting or arriving at Charles Schultz-Sonoma County Airport. Jon Stout is the airport's manager. "At the end of the year, we were doing better than 2019 numbers but then the omicron variant derailed a little bit, but yes, we're getting close to the 2019 numbers."
In fact, Stout said, he's predicting a record year in terms of passenger arrivals and departures, with as many as 19 planes a day rolling down the runway.
While the cost of aviation fuel and uncertainty surrounding COVID has made carriers reluctant to make short or medium-term commitments, Stout said he's approached airlines with research showing enough demand for flights to new cities that could be profitable. "The markets that we currently are talking to carriers about, include Palm Springs, Ontario, Boise, Chicago and Hawaii."
Chicago would connect to United's hub, following American's move connecting STS with Ft Worth, that airline's major hub.
Stout said the airport is in good shape financially, though demand for hangers and ramps could outstrip supply in a few years. A new terminal, scheduled for completion by year's end will ease some issues and enable some additional growth. "It will still be tight, but it will help us for the next several years. There may be a need in five years out or more when we'd have to do some more additions to the building. Parking we're adequate at the moment, but that will depend on what flights and frequencies get added, we do have occasional times of the year when our parking does fill up," though he says those issues should be solved thanks to the recent approval of a new rental car facility, freeing up additional parking spots.