Piedmont Triad International Airport (PTIA) is starting to see a nice trend developing.

Newly released passenger numbers are up and those numbers follow an announcement last month that a new economy airline, Spirit Airlines, is opening new routes to Florida in September.

While there’s been a lot of area economic growth tied to PTIA in recent years, passenger service is something that airport officials have been trying to increase – and now it looks like they’re doing just that.

Numbers released at the Tuesday, June 26 meeting of the Piedmont Triad Airport Authority show improvement for the first part of 2018. The number of people flying in and out of PTIA has, according to airport officials, “continued a strong pattern of growth.”

In May 2018, passenger traffic was up more than 7 percent over May of last year, with the 2018 year-to-date numbers up 6.5 percent.

Year-to-date stats also show that the number of flights in and out of PTIA is up 3.5 percent compared with the same period a year ago.

The new numbers continue a trend in recent years of increased passenger traffic at PTIA, which was up about 5 percent in 2017 and 10 percent the year before that. The increases followed a half decade of dropping passenger numbers at PTIA.

Piedmont Triad Airport Authority Executive Director Kevin Baker said he’s happy to see the growth and that gaining passenger traffic is certainly a challenge with two major airports – Raleigh-Durham International and Charlotte-Douglas International – within competitive driving distance.

“There’s no question that affects us – we are clearly one option of three airports,” he said.

According to Baker, that’s especially the case for those who live on the eastern side of Greensboro – who may take a strong look at flying out of Raleigh – and those people near Lexington or Winston-Salem, who may choose to fly out of Charlotte.

Baker said that, despite that competition, Greensboro is trying to attract travelers through marketing and better service.

“We try to make this the easiest option,” he said of flying into and out of PTIA.

Though at times a ticket will cost more to fly from PTIA, he said, when travel time and parking is figured in, people might save both money and time by using PTIA.

There are other perks as well, he said.

“It’s a less stressful atmosphere and we try to make it easier to get through,” Baker said.

Anyone who’s flown out of Charlotte or Raleigh in recent years knows that’s true. Compared with PTIA, the experience is night and day in terms of crowds and lines. PTIA handles about 850,000 passengers a year compared with 5 million at Raleigh-Durham International and 23 million at Charlotte-Douglas International.

Airport officials are also pleased that the number of flights and passengers will get a much welcome bump again in early September as Spirit Airlines opens new routes to Florida beginning on Sept. 6. Spirit will begin routes to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Orlando International Airport and Tampa International Airport. Service to and from Orlando will run three times a week, while service to Fort Lauderdale and Tampa will start out at two times a week, though airport officials say they hope the number of days increases over time.

Piedmont Triad Airport Authority Member Linda Shaw, a former Guilford County commissioner, said she’s delighted with the increasing passenger numbers as well as with the addition of new routes. She said Baker and other airport staff have been working hard to boost those numbers. Shaw said the addition of the Spirit flights was a big deal and was the result of the continued effort by airport staff.

“Something like that doesn’t happen overnight,” Shaw said.

Baker said an improving economy is helping matters.

“The economy is up overall and air traffic is a lagging indicator of the economy,” Baker said.

He said this is all good news for the airport and he’s really looking forward to the addition of the three Spirit flights to new destinations.

“We don’t have any flights serving those airports right now,” Baker said. “And Spirit is a great low-cost carrier. It’s a great opportunity – a very positive development.”

Baker added that airport staff has a good deal of work to do to help the new carrier get ready for the additional routes. He said that’s true any time a new carrier comes in.

“There is a lot of coordination with the airlines,” Baker said.

He said that new counters, electrical lines and other infrastructure had to be installed and airport maintenance crews are working with Spirit in that effort.