Date: October 30, 2019
Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport in Weyers Cave is the state’s smallest commercial service airport, but its passenger numbers have skyrocketed over the past year and a half.
After changing its commercial flight provider in April 2018 to Utah-based SkyWest, the airport saw its passenger numbers that first month climb to 1,368 from about 250 passengers the previous month — a 453% increase.
It’s good news for the airport, which suffered a decline in passengers beginning in 2014, due in part to a pilot shortage that hit small regional carriers especially hard, says Gregory W. Campbell, the airport’s executive director.
“We made a change in 2016 to Via Airlines in Florida, but their reliability started to erode over 18 months,” Campbell says. “It led us to go to the [Virginia] Department of Transportation and make the change to SkyWest.”
In May, ViaAir suspended the majority of its commercial airline operations and now operates as a charter service.
Campbell attributes Shenandoah’s current passenger boost to SkyWest’s greater dependability and additional flight options.
SkyWest, Campbell says, “is a part of the United network, and it offers direct service to Chicago O’Hare and Washington Dulles. It’s the first time we’ve had dual hubs with a network carrier.”
Long-distance travelers appreciate the direct flights to O’Hare and Dulles, which are set to expand by two new flights starting in December, the airport announced. “We’re globalizing at an increasing rate, and a part of the valley’s success is having an international presence,” says Jay A. Langston, executive director of the Shenandoah Valley Partnership. “We have 12 different nations — including Brazil, China, the United Kingdom and Germany — that do business in the valley. Having the ability to get to Dulles in one step provides one more asset to compete on the world stage.”
Shenandoah’s changes aren’t limited to a new air carrier. The airport is slated to get a fifth corporate plane hangar and replace its aging bulk fuel-storage tanks. The $3 million project is scheduled to start early next year, and Campbell expects to accept bids by the end of 2019.
“The airport commission has secured long-term financing, and the improvements will produce revenue that will more than cover the costs,” Campbell says.