By Tim Saunders
LYNCHBURG, Va.—Travelers often go out of their way to avoid a regional airport, but sometimes the local choice is the best option.
Just ask Josh Grissom. He’s visiting from South Dakota and found the Lynchburg airport to be the most convenient.
“It’s also more affordable to fly directly in, instead of going to an airport in the outer region and taking a taxi or getting a friend to drive over here,” Grissom said Wednesday.
He’s part of a growing number of travelers who are choosing to fly in and out of Lynchburg. The regional airport has seen a 7.5% increase in passenger traffic during 2012.
“We’re filling the airplanes,” said airport director, Mark Courtney. “We’re seeing a strong return of business travel.”
As the economy improves, executives at Lynchburg companies are starting to fly more. Combine that with the growing number of college students in the area and you’ve got strong demand for air travel.
“With strong business demand for our size, there’s a lot of opportunity,” Courtney said.
Airport officials are hoping to use this year’s strong passenger numbers to attract another airline. Courtney is planning to meet with officials from United Airlines early next year.
“We’re seeing a lot of opportunity for international travel out of Lynchburg and that’s something that United will be very interested in,” Courtney said.
His goal is to get air service from Lynchburg to Washington D.C.
“We’re confident and hopeful that we’ll be able to finally get United,” said Courtney. “If not, we’re looking at some other opportunities as well.”
United served the Lynchburg airport until 2002. If the company decides not to come back, Courtney believes there’s enough demand to convince U.S. Airways to expand the service its already offering in the Hill City.