ILM sees increase in passengers, revenue in 2015

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Wilmington International Airport. File photo.
Wilmington International Airport. File photo.

Wilmington International Airport saw increases in both passengers and operating revenue in 2015, according to Airport Director Julie Wilsey.

Wilsey presented the New Hanover County Airport Authority’s annual update to the county’s Board of Commissioners at their meeting Monday morning. The report stated that 769,809 passengers passed through ILM last year, an increase of 2.4 percent over 2014.

“Across the country, average enplanements are up two percent, so ILM is above average,” Wilsey noted.

Delta Airlines and American Airlines are the only two companies operating commercial flights out of ILM, with American providing the majority of the services. However, through the airlines’ connections to four international gateways (Atlanta, Charlotte, Philadelphia and New York – LaGuardia) and domestic hub Reagan National in Washington, D.C., nearly 400 cities across the world are just one connection away from the Cape Fear area.

An increase in passengers has also translated into an increase in operating revenue for the airport. It generated $8,475,500 in 2015, an increase of 4.5 percent from the previous year. The biggest revenue generator was parking, which accounted for 39 percent, followed by the airlines and terminal services such as food and merchandise, which accounted for 25.5 percent and 18.5 percent, respectively.

Wilsey said that along with the ILM Business Park, which is expanding and recently became the first airport business park in the nation to become AT&T Fiber ready, the airport’s influence is continuing to grow.

“ILM is a regional asset,” said Wilsey. “We have a $1.6 billion impact on this community, which we feel is a very impressive portion considering the [airports across] the state [have] a $31 billion impact.”

The county also benefits from the property taxes paid by owners of aircraft based at ILM. According to Wilsey, a total of 100 planes were based at the airport last year, generating $616,100 in tax revenue for the county. For comparison, Southport, which is home base to 81 aircraft, collected $31,000 in taxes, while Asheville’s airport housed 174 planes and generated $243,600 in property taxes.

“Our tax impact is far above other airports around us,” Wilsey pointed out.

The total debt of the airport is $5,452,890, the majority coming from loans on the international terminal and the rental car facility.

Over $100 million has been spent on airport developments since 1998. Projects in 2015, which totaled over $13 million, included improvements to the airfield (ramps and pavements), stormwater infrastructure and an upgrade to the facility’s security camera system.

Wilmington International Airport provides jobs for 4,910 people in the Cape Fear region. Seasonal weekend flights to Washington Reagan National Airport returned on May 7, and beginning June 1, the airport will increase their offerings to three daily flights to New York – LaGuardia International Airport.