It turns out the 7.7 percent bump in passengers that Des Moines International Airport got in March compared with caucus-boosted March 2016 included a single-month record of 226,534 passengers getting on or off planes at the facility. That was up from 210,298 in March 2016.
Kevin Foley, the airport's general manager and executive director, said the new record is almost certain to be broken in June, which is always the airport's busiest month. For example, June of last year brought in 224,091, up from 215,517 in June 2015.
Of course, the airport scrambles to handle peak traffic when it's that busy, which is why it is adjusting operations and planning a $500 million project that includes a new terminal, a new parking garage and other amenities.
Parking at the airport during the spring break rush to beaches across the Western Hemisphere was nearly full, and Foley and his staff is making plans for more lots. Parking revenue was strong, and landing fees were coming in so well the airport might consider lowering them because they are a break-even proposition, said airport finance director Brian Mulcahy.
The airport board today approved a $13.8 million project that involves reconstruction of the main runway over the next couple of years. Flynn Co. Inc. got the contract after submitting a bid that was nearly $600,000 under the estimate.
Foley said ultra-low cost carriers are driving the growth, luring passengers from farther away. He said other Midwestern airports also are seeing higher traffic, but not the percentage gains the Des Moines airport is posting.
Airport contracts manager Steve Dawson said the Des Moines airport first topped 200,000 passengers in a month in June 2013, the only time it passed that milestone that year. In 2014, the count topped 200,000 in five months, the year after, six. Last year, passengers topped 200,000 in eight months.