Since Delta began offering daily service from New Haven to Cincinnati last spring, almost four times as many travelers have been taking advantage of Tweed’s services, according to data collected by the airport.
Four thousand thirty-two passengers flew out of Tweed in June, and 4,040 flew in July, airport manager Rick Lamport said. This represents a noticeable increase from June and July of last year, when the airport saw only 1,194 and 1,316 passengers, respectively, pass through its gates.
Economic Development Administrator Henry Fernandez said a joint effort between the city of New Haven, airport authority, the local business community and Yale University has made Tweed’s success possible this summer.
“It really comes down to the fact that, not only do we have a good product, but that we’re marketing it as well,” Fernandez said.
Lamport said the Greater New Haven community has responded “very strongly and favorably” to the added airline service over the course of the summer. In fact, passenger activity at Tweed is the highest it has been in five years — back when flights were offered to multiple destinations, including Washington, D.C.
“Delta’s numbers just show you that their airport is convenient, and people do respond to air service,” Lamport said.
The load factor — the percentage of occupied seats on a flight — has been averaging around 70 percent for Delta flights this summer, a respectable number for the industry, Lamport said. Last year, the load factor of flights departing from Tweed hovered around only 22 percent.
Much of Tweed’s success can be attributed to an aggressive marketing campaign, Fernandez said. City officials have been promoting the airport by meeting with businesses and cultural organizations, using donated advertisement space from local media outlets, and even sending out fliers in residents’ water bills.
“Wherever we think we might have a good base of people who can fly out of the airport, we try to get that information to them,” Fernandez said.
Fernandez said he expects about 50,000 passengers to travel through Tweed by the end of this year, compared with 18,000 last year.
He added that passengers do not need to wait in long lines, and can arrive about one half-hour later than they would at a larger airport like Bradley or John F. Kennedy. It takes only about 10 minutes to drive to Tweed from downtown New Haven.
Darlene Corgan, manager of travel services for Yale, said while business tends to slow down slightly during the summer months, travelers who opt to fly out of Tweed have already tripled since last spring. She said competitive fares, a closer commute, and cheaper parking — Yale ID holders receive free parking at Tweed until the end of this year — make it tempting for travelers to choose service through the local airport.
“In every way, shape and form we are promoting Tweed,” Corgan said.
Alexandra Antonioli ’07 said she appreciated the convenience of nearby Delta service when she flew home to Butte, Montana from Tweed twice this summer.
“It was way easier because you don’t have to haul all your stuff out to New York. I could be there at 5, and leave at 6,” she said.
Although Antonioli made connections in both Cincinnati and Salt Lake City before arriving in Montana, she said she usually experiences more layovers and higher costs when flying out of New York.
Despite the jump in passengers flying through Tweed, New Haven remains an underserved market when it comes to airline transportation, Fernandez said.
“I think there’s no question that we want to get more airlines,” Fernandez said. “We’re always working on that.”