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Report finds Yeager Airport well connected for size

CHARLESTON, W.Va.--Although Yeager Airport is small, it is well connected. Now airport officials say they have the numbers to prove it.

According to an MIT white paper, which was released in June, Yeager ranked the second best connected non-hub airport and it ranked 111th among all 462 commercial service airports in the nation.

And officials say the airport could have moved up to the top spot in the non-hub airport category because 2012 data did not take into account its flights to Dallas.

The study looked at overall connectivity and how it may have changed because of airline mergers and consolidations.

According to the study, the Airport Connectivity Index looks at flight frequency, the quantity and quality of destinations and the quantity and quality of connective destinations.

"People have a misconception that we are a small airport. And we are nationally," said Brian Belcher, director of marketing and air service development. "But we have great connectivity. We have good air service for an airport this size."

And Anthony Gilmer, marketing and air service development coordinator, said, "this puts the numbers behind it."

Gilmer explained Yeager has service in nine airports-eight of which are hubs.

Belcher said the airport ranked better in connectivity than about 50 airports in bigger cities. 

"It's kind of hard to believe that some wouldn't have better because in large cities, there is a lot of service and seats but not necessarily connectivity," Belcher said.

North Carolina's Asheville Municipal airport captured the top spot in the category with 361,617 enplanements in 2011. Charleston had 282,704 for that year.

Belcher said Yeager's best year was in 2005, when there were about 318,000 enplanements.

Most of the airport's traffic comes from business travelers, which Gilmer said is the reason they have such high connectivity.

"Leisure travel can vary with the economy and other events but business travel, for the most part, is constant," he said.

Gilmer said the airport averages about 80 international passengers a day. Belcher said that is a "very strong" number for an airport of Yeager's size. 

"We do have a pretty good international use of the airport," Belcher said. "The other thing that helps that is the Toyota plant and all the companies associated with the Toyota plant. ... We are getting a lot of traffic from the Pacific Rim."

What's in store for the airport in the future?

Belcher said recently, the airport received an $850,000 Small Community Air Services Development Grant, which officials want to apply to attracting flights between Charleston and Orlando. 

"It takes away the perception that we're a small airport, you can't get anywhere and it costs too much," Belcher said. "We've always known that. We've always said we've had great service for an airport this size."

Contact writer Andrea Lannom at Andrea.Lannom@dailymail.com or 304-348-5148. Follow her at www.twitter.com/AndreaLannom.


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