Airport seeing boom times
In less than two months, the Lake Tahoe Airport has gone from nearly desolate to busy, if not yet booming.
“Thank goodness,” said Janis Brand, airport management assistant. “It was like a tomb.”
With the return of scheduled flights in June, traffic on the runway nearly doubled compared to a year ago. In June 1999, 3,152 airplanes landed and took off at the airport compared to 1,640 in June 1998.
Allegiant Air, which has direct flights to Burbank, Calif., and Las Vegas, began commercial service on June 3. Tahoe Air followed on June 25 and flies to San Jose, Calif., and Los Angeles.
The air traffic trend continued in July with a 61 percent increase from 2,700 in 1998 to 4,404 in 1999.
Since the official traffic count only includes the hours between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., the actual number is about 10 percent higher, Brand said.
The airline activity has also generated an increase in general aviation.
“We have always had a crazy connection,” Brand said. “We have a lot more flights on the general aviation side when we have commercial service. When attention is drawn back to the airport, it brings private airplanes in. It brings Tahoe back to mind.”
Oasis Aviation, which provides fuel and ground services, has added two full-time positions to its staff, said Oasis spokeswoman Mindy Johnke. They now have six employees. That could go up one or two more as both Tahoe Air and Allegiant are planning to increase flights.
“We’ll throw some more baggage,” Johnke said.
The increase in airport activity has many fringe benefits including the general economy of the community due to increased tourism and the income of the airport itself.
The airport collects landing fees, terminal rents, rental car commissions, fuel flow fees, ground transportation service fees and retail rents. Even with the increase in staff required from the increased business, Brand said the airport could decrease its dependency on transient room taxes by about $70,000.
Depending on where the South Lake Tahoe City Council decides to channel those dollars, that could be good news to the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, which also depends on the room tax.
Airport and airline officials are looking for continued growth with an increased flow of passengers and dollars.
With the airline advertising gaining momentum, Brand expects increases of 5 to 10 percent per month for awhile.
Johnke is also looking forward to going from busy to booming.
“I just really hope this works out for the long term,” she said. “I hope both (airlines) make it into the long term. It’s the greatest.”
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