Yellowstone Regional Airport is flying into a new decade with momentum from its busiest year on record.
YRA announced Wednesday it finished the year with a record 41,220 departing passengers and 81,966 total passengers. These totals exceed the previous record set in 2016 of 40,288 departees and 79,931 total travelers.
“We have a lot of people using this terminal,” said YRA general manager Bob Hooper.
The December holiday was also strong for YRA with a 17.9% increase in passenger travel compared to December 2018, a record for that month at the airport.
Despite a slow start to 2019 with a 14% decline in travelers through the first five months compared to 2018, the airport bounced back with a strong summer and fall.
For the 2019 summer season, YRA resumed nonstop United Airlines flights to Chicago after a one-year hiatus and added an extra flight to Denver International Airport. Delta Sky West Airlines continued its service to Salt Lake City as well, which it will offer again this upcoming summer. Bucky Hall, YRA board chairman, said Delta service will be extended by about two months, with an earlier start in May and later finish in September.
Hooper said due to that increase, the airport with have a chance at reaching 45,000 departing passengers for 2020.
Hall said negotiations are still ongoing regarding United’s Chicago service but if it does occur, it will be run under a maximum revenue guarantee agreement. An MRG is a security deposit which the private Cody Yellowstone Air Improvements Resources group pays up front to airlines at the beginning of summer service.
United will continue to service four daily flights to Denver this summer, but times will adjust slightly. Hooper said there will be departures around 5:30 a.m., 7:10 a.m., 11:15 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. That fourth flight did not depart until 6 p.m. last summer, which Hooper felt limited departing passenger numbers.
“Moving that flight should carry a lot more people so this just adds into the equation,” Hooper said.
The last few years have been strong for YRA with four consecutive years of 70,000-plus passengers. In 2018, YRA had its third busiest year on record with 77,400 passengers. As of 2018, YRA was the third busiest airport in Wyoming and 298th busiest in the country.
By this spring, YRA will finalize a master plan that will serve as a road map for future growth at the airport.