Sonoma County airport passenger volume up 22% in September, 8% so far in 2019

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The number of airline passengers using Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport rose to another monthly high in September and a nearly 22% jump from a year before, the facility reported Thursday.

The Santa Rosa airport benefited from new flights and extended service by the four commercial airlines serving the airport.

Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, United Airlines and Sun Country Air completed 52,962 passenger trips to and from Santa Rosa last month, up from 43,480 a year before, according to the county-run facility. The pace for the first nine months of the year was up 8.3%, to 361,981 from 334,160 in that time frame last year.

Passenger traffic on the largest airline serving Wine Country, Alaska Airlines, increased 8.4% from a year before, to 34,644, but the pace was barely ahead of last year, up 1.2% to 251,296, according to the report.

The Seattle-based airline's Santa Rosa flight load factor, an industry metric for how full planes are, was unchanged at 81.0% for September from a year before but up 3.8% for the first three quarters of 2019.

And American's planes on Santa Rosa routes also were about as full a year ago, at an 82.0% load factor, but they were slightly more occupied in the first nine months, up 1.3%.

But the airline's passenger traffic through Sonoma County nearly tripled for September, to 5,463, and was up 92.3% for the first nine months, to 33,685. The carrier started flights from Santa Rosa to Southern California in May and Dallas in June.

United's Santa Rosa passenger traffic has been rebounding since it started daily flights to Denver in March, according to the airport figures. But United carried 4,581 passengers in September, down 19.0% over 12 months, and the 36,124 for the first nine months was off by 22.0% from a year before. United returned to Santa Rosa in 2017 after a decade absence, starting with a short hop to San Francisco.

But the United flights to and from Santa Rosa have been a lot fuller, with a load factor for September and first three quarters being about equal with Alaska's and American's, up from 68% a year before and 63% for the first nine months of 2018.

And Minneapolis-based Sun Country, a seasonal Santa Rosa carrier, is getting a boost from expanded routes. Its September passenger traffic through Santa Rosa was up nearly 22%, to 2,607, and the number carried so far this year is 64.5% ahead, at nearly 10,000.

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