LAKE CHARLES, LA. (KPLC) -The end of summer marks several major milestones for Lake Charles Regional Airport. In June, Lake Charles was the 18th most profitable market for American Airlines in their American Eagle system.
It was no doubt an all time low for air travel in Lake Charles when Hurricane Rita destroyed the terminal which had to be housed in a temporary structure. And for four long years it seemed as though the airport was limping along.
Then in 2009, the new terminal opened. Airport director Heath Allen says it's been a great year as they mark the one year anniversary. For one thing passengers are up. "We expect this year to finish out in terms of passengers. We expect this year to be the best year this decade. We fully expect to beat all of the past ten years in terms of passenger numbers."
And the terminal itself has been getting rave reviews. Said Police Juror Sandy Treme, "We're better than nice, we're better than good. We're triple A. We have as fine a facility as I've seen at any small airport."
Allen gave his annual report to Calcasieu Police Jurors. The numbers look good for commercial airlines, though at least one juror call expressed disappointment continental still uses prop planes. Said Chris Landry, "When they come and tell me it's going to be a jet that's great. And then they take it away. That's not good."
But Allen says it's about cost. "They can save about thirty per cent in terms of their cost. It's about thirty per cent more efficient to operate a turbo prop versus the regional jet. There's only fifty seats on that jet and jet technology is very expensive on take off and landing." And Allen says the Continental Jet is back on the morning flight.
As well, while high fares used to be a common complaint Juror Dennis Scott it's much better. "Some of these air fares leaving in and out of Lake Charles are as of air fares as you're going to get. You just gotta shop a little and check your fares a little ahead of time. But the fares are more than reasonable."
And thanks to some $5 million dollars in various grants, more improvements are coming ranging from better signage to drainage improvements.
Officials point out the new terminal and other improvements were paid for with monies made available due to the hurricane. They say local tax dollars did not have to be used.