Richmond International Airport’s passenger traffic rose sharply in August, the sixth consecutive month of growth.
The airport recorded a 4.4 percent increase in passengers in August compared with the same month last year, according to the Capital Region Airport Commission.
“It appears that there’s healthy demand for air travel,” said Troy Bell, Richmond International’s director of marketing and air service development, “and the prices and destinations (offered by airlines serving Richmond International) appear right to support the increased demand.”
Located in eastern Henrico County, RIC handled 306,099 passengers in August, up from 293,160 in August 2013.
The airport’s year-over-year passenger volumes have grown in nine of the past 12 months, Bell said, noting that traffic “got whacked” by winter storms in January and February.
Meanwhile, in RIC’s summer — June, July and August — traffic was up more than 6.5 percent from the summer of 2013, he said, and for the calendar year to date, Richmond’s passenger traffic has grown 4.3 percent.
“Obviously we’re pleased to see the steady growth here at RIC,” Bell said.
Air travel is a rough measure of the region’s economic health, as well as the airport’s financial stability. RIC depends on revenue it earns from passenger traffic for the money to pay its bills.
Richmond’s traffic peaked at 3.6 million passengers in 2007 and has only recently begun to rebound from the impact of the lingering national recession.
Last year, about 3.2 million air travelers used Richmond International.
Delta Air Lines was RIC’s market share leader in August with 34.3 percent of the field’s traffic, followed by US Airways with 20.1 percent and United Airlines with 13.4 percent.
All but one of the six air carriers serving Richmond International reported year-over-year growth for the month.
American Airlines was up 18.8 percent; the merged AirTran Airways/Southwest Airlines, up 7.5 percent; JetBlue Airways, up 5.4 percent; Delta, up 5.1; and US Airways, up 4.9 percent.
Only United’s traffic was down in August — falling nearly 12 percent — reflecting the fact that the airline ended its Richmond-Cleveland service in June when it stopped using the Ohio airport as a hub for flight operations.
At 9.95 million pounds, air cargo decreased 0.9 percent in August compared to the same month last year. For the calendar year to date, RIC’s cargo is down 3.7 percent. Air freight traffic is traditionally volatile at the capital region field.
US Airways will end its Richmond-Boston service in late October, but JetBlue will add one daily RIC-BOS flight in November, then another in December.
US Airways provides three daily nonstop flights between Richmond and Boston, using 50-passenger regional jets. JetBlue makes three daily nonstop roundtrips to Boston, serving the route with 100-passenger jets.
RIC’s August passenger counts reflect a mix of Southwest and AirTran service for the last time, the commission noted, as the Richmond-Atlanta flights transitioned fully to Southwest service Aug. 10. Southwest bought AirTran in 2011.