The Asheville Regional Airport Authority is planning to develop a new surface parking lot and has authorized the purchase of two new parking lot shuttles as passenger traffic continues to soar.
Airport officials also recently celebrated the inaugural flights of three new routes on American Airlines. The flights are to Dallas, New York and Philadelphia. (It’s been Allegiant that has really powered the Asheville airport’s growth in recent years. Word on the street is that Allegiant, which is now basing crew and planes in Asheville, has plans to add a flight from Asheville to New Orleans.)
The Asheville Regional Airport topped more than 1 million passengers in 2018, the first-time milestone for the airport. Last year was the fifth consecutive year of record passenger numbers at the airport, which ranks as one of the fastest-growing small non-hub airports in the United States.
And the flyers keep on coming. Asheville served 296,571 passengers January through March of this year, a 45 percent increase over the same period last year.
The airlines serving Asheville are bringing in bigger planes, which translates to about a 40 to 50 percent increase in what airport officials call “seats in market,” according to airport spokeswoman Tina Kinsey, who gave a brief update to the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority last month, all of which is a good sign for continued growth.
Who are these passengers? It’s about a 60-40 split between business flyers (60) and leisure travelers, according to Kinsey. And 56 percent of airport users are local, she says.
“Growth is very exciting, and it comes with new challenges,” Lew Bleiweis, the airport’s executive director, said in a press release. “Our board and airport team are working diligently to manage the significant increases, both with short-term and long-term planning.”
That planning includes the purchase of two ADA-accessible, 14-passenger shuttles that should arrive this fall, Kinsey says. The airport authority agreed to spend not more than $150,000 for the two vehicles. Airport officials are also planning to build a surface parking lot on property is owns across the road from the airport. The new lot will hold about 400 vehicles.
“It will take the summer to prepare, and we anticipate opening the shuttle lot this fall,” Kinsey said in an email response to my inquiry.
The Asheville airport opened a new $22 million, 5-story parking deck in late 2017. The deck, with 1,300 parking spaces, has filled to capacity a number of times during peak travel days – and not solely on holiday weekends and spring break, Kinsey said.