The St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (PIE) continues to be on a record-breaking streak for its monthly passenger traffic activity despite ongoing challenges in the travel industry.
For the fifth consecutive month, the airport reported its biggest-ever passenger record. For July, PIE reported 278,618 passengers, breaking the record set last July by 6%.
Year-to-date, the airport’s passenger numbers are up 29% with the 65 non-stop destinations it serves.
“Allegiant is a huge part of our success story. We are the No. 1 employee base for Allegiant. This is their home,” said Michele Routh, the airport’s public relations director.
From late last year to this year, the airport has gained nine new routes through Allegiant and added Candian airline Swoop and Sun Country Airlines. In total, the airlines introduced 13 new routes.
Another attributing factor to the airport’s growth is its focus on improving the flow of passengers navigating through the airport. On average, according to PIE reports, passengers are checked in within five minutes and roughly 95% of the passengers are screened in less than 10 minutes, creating a more expedient process.
The service and passenger growth comes at a time when the state overall is facing headwinds.
“Industry-wide you have undoubtedly read about crew and pilot staffing shortages and are limited as to the number of hours they can work as regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration. This is for your safety. With increased passengers, especially to Florida, this creates more pressure on the system,” PIE Airport Director Tom Jewsbury wrote in a recent newsletter, acknowledging the challenge and stating the airport is working to overcome it by having a robust staff and numerous non-stop flights options.
The delays, as well as weather impacts, can cause air traffic control to issue a “ground stop” so the skies don’t become congested. The airport is also notifying passengers of limited parking, including altering passengers through Allegiant’s flight check-in email.
Meanwhile, PIE is also in the planning stages of a $106 million terminal expansion.
The expansion, as first reported by the St. Pete Catalyst, will be a multi-year, multi-phase project that entails building a new passenger boarding level on the second floor and adding more aircraft parking spaces. Currently, the airport has ground-level boarding.
PIE would also reconfigure certain spaces in the airport to become more efficient. For instance, the current concession area will be reconfigured, as it does not serve customers post-security. PIE will also reconfigure the two-checkpoint design into a single large checkpoint for its two terminals.