Arnold Palmer Regional Airport saw an increase in passenger totals for a third straight year in 2019, according to the Westmoreland County Airport Authority’s annual report.

In the report, officials noted that a combined 309,817 passengers, inbound and outbound, passed through the Unity Township terminal last year. That total is nearly 9,000 passengers more than the airport served in 2018.

“That’s the second highest total since Spirit started here,” authority executive director Gabe Monzo said at Tuesday’s monthly meeting.

Spirit Airlines, the airport’s lone carrier, began flying out of Unity Township in February 2011. Since then, Monzo said the airport has served 2.25 million passengers.

He noted that the airport’s total aircraft operations also increased in 2019 to 30,794, an increase of nearly 6,000 compared to the previous year.

“Both are signs of things looking up,” Monzo said of the airport’s annual passenger and operations figures.

Since a highwater year in 2015 — the facility served 355,910 passengers that year while briefly offering fights from Unity Township to Las Vegas and Chicago — the airport has seen mostly steady growth. Passenger totals dipped to 289,832 the following year, but then increased over the next three years, exceeding the 300,000-passenger mark in 2018.

New authority board chairman Paul Puleo praised airport employees for a successful 2019 during Tuesday’s meeting.

“(The airport) runs like clockwork,” he said. “It’s a real jewel for the county.”

Also Tuesday, Puleo honored Don Rossi with a plaque for his 35 years of service as an authority board member. Puelo noted that Rossi, who recently finished a run as board chairman, has played a role in nearly $62 million worth of airport projects during his time with the authority.

He also credited Rossi for helping Arnold Palmer Regional Airport secure Spirit Airlines more than a decade ago, a move that has brought prosperity to the local airport and provided Westmoreland County with an added economic boost.

“If it wasn’t for some of the things (Don) did back in 2009, ’10 and ’11, we wouldn’t have Spirit and we wouldn’t be where we are today,” Puleo said.

Additionally, the authority board on Tuesday approved to seek bids, if necessary, to refurbish the airport’s electronic sign adjacent from routes 30 and 981.

Monzo said the sign’s original display dates back to 2009 and is in need of updated LED panels, as he said the current setup can be difficult to see at dusk. The newer panels, he noted, will provide a higher-resolution image and will improve clarity but won’t affect brightness for motorists along the roadway.

While airport officials will look into possible options through the state’s COSTARS cooperative purchasing program, authority member Mark Gera said bids are required for projects exceeding $20,000 that can’t be funded through COSTARS.

In other business:

  • Authority engineer Scott Kunselman said construction may begin in late March on the airport’s runway widening and strengthening project;
  • Puleo said Rostraver Township Commissioner Gary Beck Sr. will replace Sam Scanlon on the airport authority after Scanlon’s term expired;
  • The airport served 22,541 passengers in December, according to figures provided by the airport.

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