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John Wayne Airport traffic dips in 2011

A decline in travel and operations in December contribute to the marginal slip

by Caitlin AdamsPublished: January 27, 2012 02:05 PM

The total number of passengers and airport operations fell at Orange County’s John Wayne Airport in 2011, according to the airport’s latest statistics. This comes as a bit of a surprise following its half-billion-dollar expansion and upgrade project.

Overall, total passenger traffic fell by 0.6 percent last year, with commercial aircraft operations declining by 2 percent and commuter aircraft operations dropping by a whopping 18.9 percent. Total aircraft operations were down by 3.9 percent for the year.

John Wayne Airport spokesperson Jenny Wedge emphasized that the overall decrease in passenger traffic was very slight, and could be partially attributed to two airlines –– Air Canada and Virgin America –– discontinuing service at the airport.

“The good news is, we are hopeful that with the new service to Mexico that starts in June –– two daily destinations [to Cabo and Mexico City] –– we’ll see an increase in overall passenger travel this year,” Wedge said.

The airport’s $543 million Capital Improvement Program was a five-year project that included the construction of a new terminal, a central utility plant, a new parking lot and structure, additional concessions, and new administrative procedures and systems for processing passengers and parking systems and payments. The project culminated with the opening of the new Terminal C in mid-November, but all of these improvements, spread out as they were, have had a very gradual impact on airport traffic, if any.

“All the improvements we made the past few years, resulting in the new terminal and parking in November 2011, should not have had any direct impact on passenger travel,” Wedge said. “We have seen a steady stream of passengers the past few years with an annual passenger level around 8.6 million – so the fact that passenger levels remained the same has been a positive sign.”

Looking ahead, the Capital Improvement Plan provided many much-needed updates to the airport in several important areas, with the aim of upgrading services for travelers and efficiency in operations.

“John Wayne Airport is a valuable business asset to Orange County and we continue to work to ensure we provide the services needed by our stakeholders. We are rated year after year by our passengers and others for being the most convenient airport. Our goal is to maintain that reputation,” Wedge said.

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