After record year Ford Airport looks towards 2016

Gerald R. Ford International Airport

CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A record number of passengers passed through the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in 2015.

Ford Airport saw 2,550,193 passengers on and off planes, it said in a Tuesday release. That’s an increase of 215,000 people and 9.2 percent over the previous record of 2,335,105, which was set in 2014.

“West Michigan is really on a roll form an economic growth standpoint. And the other thing is the additional seat capacity we have been able to bring into the market, the fact that Southwest has continued to build their presence here,” said Gerald R. Ford International Airport’s Executive Director Brian Ryks.

Nearly 7,000 people fly through the Ford Airport every day.

James Metro, a consultant from Atlanta, flies through the Ford Airport roughly two dozen times a year.

“I think it’s one of the better run airports in the United States, I could even say globally. I have never had a negative experience coming though this airport,” Metro said.

It seems he isn’t the only one who feels that way. In April, Southwest is adding three daily flights to Chicago and the Ford Airport’s growth is outpacing nearly every other airport in the Midwest.

“What’s interesting about the growth that we experienced this year it was consistent, the entire year. Month after month we recorded very strong growth,” Ryks said.

Not only are routes being added, the planes are getting larger and the number of seats flying out are up 10 percent. Meanwhile nearly every other airport in the state have seen the number of seats decreasing.

“Being able to build that low cost element is resulting in stimulating traffic here that probably used to drive to Chicago and Detroit,” said Ryks.

So what does 2016 hold for the Ford Airport? Likely continued growth and possibly new routes.

“There are routes on our list that we would like to see nonstop service to. We are going to continue to work on that. I can’t say if we will see new service this year or next year, but it’s something we prioritize,” said Ryks.

The construction will continue in the main terminal to combine the security checkpoints.

“The challenge we are having today frankly is we don’t have the infrastructure at our security check points to move the demand of people through during certain periods of the day. As a result, some airlines are taking delays as they’re waiting for people to get through the security check points, and we can’t have that,” Ryks said.

The renovations and addition will also add concessions and retail which will be complete in early 2017.

One thing that could drive increased demand over the next few years at the airport is the new data center Switch, which is going into the old Steelcase pyramid near the airport. The center is expected to employ around 1,000 people with many of them possibly needing to travel often.

“Anytime you have a company that’s bringing that many jobs — and sounds like they have the need to travel both East and West — I think will have an impact, but the timing of that is yet to be seen,” Ryks said.

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