Last year, Tweed New Haven Regional Airport posted a record passenger count, which could bode well for the development of new air routes to the Elm City.

The local airport processed 39,791 commercial airline passengers in 2011 — an 11 percent increase over the previous year — in a strong performance that City Hall spokesperson Elizabeth Benton ’04 said mirrored the city’s improved economic performance. Although Tweed is only serviced by one airline, US Airways Express, Mark Volchek ’00 GRD ’00, chairman of the Tweed New Haven Airport Authority, said that frequent local flights are “key” for the Elm City’s economic growth.

“We are very excited about the great year we had in 2011,” Volchek said in a Monday email to the News. “Convenient air service is key for economic development in [New Haven.]”

In 2011, Tweed saw more commercial traffic than in 10 of the past 11 years, according to a Tweed press release. That result, along with the steadily increasing passenger numbers over the past several years, is due to a number of factors, airport manager Lori Hoffman-Soares said. Those include an improved marketing plan adopted in recent years as well as increasingly “competitive” fares for flights from the airport, Hoffman-Soares said. She added that the airport’s convenience — Hoffman-Soares touted the airport’s “easy parking,” its 5-10 minute travel time from downtown New Haven and its relatively quick security procedures — has also led to the airport’s passenger growth.

“What this means for the airport is when we try to attract new air service with other carriers and with US Airways we now have numbers to back up the usage of the airport,” she said. “This [record passenger count] will help us attract new service.”

Currently, US Airways Express operates four flights every day between Tweed and Philadelphia International Airport, a US Airways hub with service to over 100 destinations. Delta Air Lines, which began operating at Tweed in 2003, ceased operations at the airport in 2006 after the company filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. That move cut the airport’s commercial passenger volume by a third.

In 2009, following a $26 million expansion project, Tweed officials and Mayor John DeStefano Jr. told the News that they would attempt to convince “four to five” airplane carriers to fly in and out of the airport in the next few years. Plans for expansion have met resistance from East Haven residents as recently as last summer, with complaints that the airport is too noisy, especially during its evening flights.

Although Tweed has yet to attract any additional carriers, Tweed is poised to grow in tandem with the city, Benton said.

“New Haven is seeing record low retail vacancies, the most competitive residential rental market nationwide, and the strongest grand list growth in the state,” she said. “New Haven is becoming a destination for start-up businesses and entrepreneurs, and Tweed both benefits from and contributes to that growth.”

Tweed is one of two Connecticut airports with commercial service; the other is Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn.