Appleton airport on pace for record year; increased traffic fuels expansion
Based on travel statistics through October combined with projections for November and December, more than 850,000 passengers will arrive and depart from Appleton, making it the third-busiest airport in the state behind Milwaukee and Madison respectively. In 2021, 720,083 passengers used the Appleton airport.
“We’re on pace to have our busiest year ever,” said Abe Weber, Appleton airport director. “Consumers and business travelers are realizing that it’s faster and easier to fly out of Appleton no matter their destination.” Weber says infrastructure improvements are needed to better handle the growth in passenger traffic both at the commercial airport and the private airfield.
Major infrastructure improvements to the grounds and facility were funded primarily through government grants. Of the $40 million investment, 84% of projects started in 2022 were funded by federal grants, 7% were funded by state grants, and 9% of the projects were funded by Appleton Airport. Officials also report that since January of 2022, passenger traffic at the Airport has increased –some traffic attributed to a surge in leisure travel following the pandemic, some to expanded airline routes.
“We are thankful for the work our congressional and state representatives put in to help us fund the rapidly growing air traffic here at the Appleton Airport,” said Outagamie County Executive Thomas Nelson. “Expanding our capabilities to service more flights will create faster and easier air travel for regional residents and better respond to the growing demand for travel out of Appleton.”
Projects initiated in 2022 include initiatives designed to manage the increase in passenger air traffic at both the commercial airport and the private flight center. These include.
- A major expansion of the concrete ramp used for planes landing and taxing. “Expanding our ramp means we can accommodate our increased air traffic, plus larger planes in and out of Appleton,” Weber said. “Larger planes mean we can handle more passengers to more destinations.” Construction on the expanded ramp is scheduled to begin in 2023.
- Construction of a general aviation hangar at the Appleton Flight Center, a facility used by private aircraft. The two existing hangars are full and a third is needed to serve the growing number of private planes arriving and departing from the flight center. In 2022 aviation traffic increased 28.4% over pre-pandemic levels.
In addition to airport expansion, private partners expanded facilities and operations at the airport in 2022.
- Gulfstream has started work on a paint hangar in partnership with the airport. The 73,000 square foot square foot project is expected to be completed in 2023.
- Allegiant Air added a third plane to air service in October. The Airbus 320 seats up to 186 passengers and is one of the largest planes to service Appleton. For passengers, the plane features wider aisles, wider seats, and more overhead storage, but the impact is beyond travel. The airline will be increasing staffing for pilots, flight attendants, and support staff through 2023 to serve increased passengers.
More passenger traffic, increased airline routes, and larger planes also required improvements in existing facilities to include:
- Expanding the commercial terminal ramp to accommodate current traffic and prepare for future growth.
- Expanding a service road used for refueling airplanes.
- Expansion of the Northwest Business Park road to provide access to future development lots and Hwy 76.
- Installing a water loop on the west side of the airfield to manage future growth at the business park.
The airport announces it has been reclassified to the status of a small-hub airport. The classification recognizes the growth in passengers and flights and places the Appleton Airport into a separate funding category. To meet classification as a small hub, an airport must carry .05-.25% of commercial flights nationwide. Airport leaders say the classification reflects the economic growth of the airport and the community.
“This classification elevates our status with major airlines and elevates our ability to acquire grant funding for future projects,” Weber said.
Additionally, the airport has added equipment and services to make it easier for travelers to fly in and out of Appleton:
- Operations added two boarding gates, including one jet bridge, the enclosed, movable connectors that extend from the terminal gate to the airplane. This increases the total number of jet bridges to seven, which makes it faster to serve more planes arriving and departing.
- The Express parking area has been tripled in size due to increased customer use. For the same price as long-term parking, passengers can pull up to the terminal doors, bring their keys to the welcome desk, and drop their keys there. Upon return, passengers receive a text message confirming their vehicle is ready and waiting just steps from the front door.
- The parking system has been upgraded to provide ticket-less options. Passengers can provide a credit card number or their cell phone number to use instead of a paper ticket. These identification numbers are confirmed by the passenger upon exit from the lot.
Government grants were awarded through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation Bureau of Aeronautics. For more information on the services provided by Appleton International Airport, please visit https://atwairport.com.
About Appleton International Airport Appleton International Airport connects our community to the world through American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and Allegiant Air. In addition to offering nonstop service to 15 destinations, Appleton Airport connects to six major international airport hubs from which travelers can fly to almost anywhere in the world. Using Appleton Airport, travelers can safely and more conveniently get to their destination and home again, leaving them more time for what really matters. Visit atwairport.com to learn more.