Stillwater Celebrates Five Years of Commercial Air Service | New
Stillwater Regional Airport marks its fifth year of providing commercial air service through a partnership with American Airlines.
Over the past five years, Envoy, a regional carrier of American Airlines, has carried more than 200,000 passengers from Stillwater Regional Airport, the town of Stillwater announced Monday.
Establishing commercial air service in Stillwater was a dream of former airport manager Gary Johnson, who stubbornly sought funds to improve facilities and sold the community to airlines for nearly 15 years before American Airlines’ first flight leaves SWO for Dallas on August 23, 2016.
Current airport manager Paul Priegel continued this improvement drive, securing federal grants to improve airport facilities and purchasing equipment to de-ice runways and taxiways to prevent cancellation. flights.
Stillwater City Manager Norman McNickle said it was hard to believe five years have passed since the service launched. He remembers having conversations on his back porch with Johnson, thinking they weren’t going to get away with it.
But Stillwater’s air service has been a success in terms of convenience for residents and has spurred Stillwater’s economic development and promotional efforts.
In 2017, Visit Stillwater CEO Cristy Morrison said Stillwater’s air service makes a difference when promoting the city for travel and tourism.
At the same time, Stillwater Chamber of Commerce President / CEO Justin Minges told News Press he saw a difference in the first year of operation.
Having the ability to fly directly to and from Stillwater took the city to another level of economic development and businesses that previously did not accept Stillwater’s proposals were now ready to speak, he said. declared.
City Councilor Amy Dzialowski said Stillwater’s commercial air service has made the city competitive in business and at the university level.
Many local businesses have emphasized how important it is for their employees to be able to board a plane in Stillwater, she said. To be able to say that it is a huge recruiting tool for companies.
Having direct access instead of driving in another city saves valuable time for a business traveler like Dzialowski.
“As a businessman, as a professional, it has been an incredible tool for me, just in my job, to be able to fly so easily from Stillwater – those 15 minutes from home instead of those two hours – it’s just time with my family, “she said.” And I know my business appreciates that too. Now is the time for me to work instead of hitting the road and traveling.
In its first year of service, 53,000 passengers flew from Stillwater and SWO was named Oklahoma Regional Airport of the Year by the Federal Aviation Administration.
By July 2018, the service had carried 100,000 passengers, a milestone they celebrated with a bag of prizes for the lucky traveler.
Airlines struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Stillwater service struggled as the total number of people traveling declined.
In July 2020, the service was reduced to a midday flight.
In August 2020, American Airlines announced it would be halting service at 15 smaller airports, including Stillwater, but supporters rallied and the airline pledged in September to continue service to SWO.
“We have heard a lot of people say ‘This is not acceptable’,” said Dzialowski. “It’s part of our ability to grow as a community and taking that away really felt like a setback at the time.”
The single midday flight was then rescheduled to a late night flight with an early morning stopover to better accommodate travelers making connections to Dallas, Priegel previously told News Press.
McNickle sees the potential for future growth.
The convenience of quickly going through security and having free parking is a perk he says Stillwater travelers appreciate, he said.
“It’s easy to get in, easy to exit and it’s a good service. It connects you to DFW, which has hundreds of flights a day to different destinations, ”he said.
Stillwater’s second daily flight returned in June and McNickle said the percentage of seats occupied was in the mid-1970s.
“In the midst of COVID, I think it’s phenomenal,” he said. “We have an excellent partnership with American Airlines and we hope to develop it further and perhaps open other routes if this pandemic ever ends… We are delighted with the result, delighted to still have service after five years and cheer people to fly to Stillwater.