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AVL sets record for passengers

Setting an all-time record, the Asheville Regional Airport served nearly 400,000 passengers last year as it marketed its convenience to local flyers and as discount airlines filled flights to warm-weather tourist destinations.

The airport reported that 378,124 passengers enplaned at the airport in 2014, and 378,301 passengers deplaned, an 11.5% increase compared to 2013, and a 2.3% increase over 2010, the previous record year.

"We can attribute this growth to two key factors," Executive Director Lew Bleiweis said in a news release.  "We have been successful in our efforts to retain the important hub connectivity from AVL and in attracting new low-cost service to Florida. Also, the air travelers in western North Carolina continue to embrace their local airport, and fly from AVL as often as they can."

During the past few years, airlines have changed their business models, and now work diligently to match flights and seats to what a market will support. They focus on connecting passengers from regional airports to major hubs, rather than flying point-to-point from smaller markets. Legacy carriers Delta, American (US Airways) and United provide two-thirds of the air service at AVL, connecting passengers with frequent daily flights to major hubs. At the same time, ultra-low-cost carriers have found an excellent niche in regions like western North Carolina. Allegiant Air entered the WNC market in 2011, focusing on selling vacation packages (including airfare) to popular destinations in Florida. In just over three years, Allegiant significantly grew its presence here and now offers a third of the airline seats at AVL.

"One thing that is a constant in this industry is change," said Bleiweis. "An airport does not control the air service that is offered, but we do partner with airlines and work to support their success in our market. If an airline is successful, they will stay in the market, and that's what we want for them and for the air travelers in our region - the excellent connectivity we enjoy today."

AVL was named the best connected non-hub airport in America in 2013, and has enjoyed continued growth since that time. Seats in the market have been strong, and a look-ahead shows reservations running ahead of 2014.