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Passenger traffic up at airport

Business fliers make up 70%

Fort Wayne International Airport saw a jump in passenger traffic last year.

On Monday, officials reported a 5 percent increase as the number of departures rose to 298,661 in 2013, up from 284,465 departures the previous year. The gain is encouraging for the travel hub as it continues to compete against larger airstrips.

In November, Fort Wayne International released the results of a business travelers’ online survey that showed New York and Washington as destinations at the top of their wish list. The poll had 353 participants.

Airport spokeswoman Jessica Miller said administrators are attempting to respond to the survey’s findings, but are pleased that traveler traffic is up. The airport offers nonstop daily flights to Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, Atlanta and Dallas/Fort Worth. The major carriers are American, Delta and United.

Allegiant Air provides mostly leisure flights twice weekly to Phoenix and three cities in Florida – Orlando, Tampa and Fort Myers.

But business travelers make up at least 70 percent of Fort Wayne International’s passengers, so they are a priority.

“Our biggest effort is to get service in those areas,” said Miller, referring to New York and Washington. “Increasing service is a big decision, as is investment. Carriers want to know that they are going to be profitable. There is a lot of competition.”

To that end, the Fort Wayne-Allen County Airport Authority in the fall said it received a $600,000 grant from the Small Community Air Service Development Program, which provides money to help air centers remain competitive.

The online survey was distributed in the spring by the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce, the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, the airport, various businesses and travel agents. Leisure travelers weren’t prohibited from completing the survey, but officials targeted business travelers.

The Federal Aviation Administration has not released totals for 2013.

Total traffic for Fort Wayne International, which includes passengers arriving and departing, was 592,968 in 2013, compared to 564,777 in 2012.

Those figures prove that Summit City is making some headway against markets like Indianapolis, said Scott Hinderman, executive director of airports.

“In addition to the convenience of using FWA, our airfares are becoming more and more competitive with other airports in the region,” he said in a statement.

“Travelers might be surprised to find that when you factor in gas, parking, possibly an overnight hotel stay, and your time, FWA is the more affordable choice.”