Dane County Regional Airport says shortages are stunting airport growth

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) – The number of travelers at airports across the country continues to grow after the 2020 crisis at the start of the pandemic, returning to a pre-pandemic form before the July 4 holiday weekend.

On Friday, the TSA said it had screened more than 2.4 million people, the highest one-day total since February 2020. That’s an exclamation point after growth through the first half of 2022. According to TSA checkpoint number of trips, each day of 2022 saw a higher number of checks than in 2021. Dane County Regional Airport communications manager Michael Riechers said growth is landing at Madison.

“He comes back regularly, which is exciting to see; it’s not just peaks and valleys, it’s a slow and steady increase in travel,” Riechers said. “We’re about 2017, 2018 travel numbers in terms of pre-pandemic numbers, to put that into perspective, 2019 was a banner year.”

Unfortunately, airline shortages are holding back the airport’s growth. Things like pilot and aircraft shortages are impacting the number of flights, which in turn are impacting the Dane County Regional Airport.

“We would have expected to see our network grow out of Madison, and by that I mean, more flights, more frequencies like that, that growth has been limited due to limitations in the airline industry,” Riechers said. “All of these destinations that we had before the pandemic, they just don’t have the supply of pilots or planes right now.”

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported more than 3,200 fewer pilots in 2021 compared to 2019. Riechers is optimistic that supply can once again meet demand, fueling a terminal expansion at the airport, which will take around a year.

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