Wilmington International Airport hit a new monthly record of more than 100,000 passengers in June – but the rise in passengers through ILM is nothing new.
In fact, the amount of travelers using the airport has soared each month in 2019 compared to the same month the previous year.
In the past three months of available airport data: April saw nearly 89,500 travelers, compared to about 77,400 in April 2018; May’s approximately 99,700 passengers trumped the previous year’s May total of about 85,700; and June’s record of more than 100,000 passengers marked a 15 percent increase over June 2018.
What’s more, ILM set a yearly record in 2018, serving about 934,000 travelers last year. That’s a 12 percent increase over 2017.
Airport officials point to expanded service as one reason behind the growth.
“American Airlines expanded service, by adding more flights and turning seasonal routes into year-round routes, to destinations such as Reagan National (DCA), Dallas Fort-Worth (DFW), as well as Chicago O’Hare (ORD),” ILM marketing specialist Erin McNally said.
ILM’s carriers have also added routes during the summer, which is the area’s peak travel season.
For example, Delta Air Lines brought back its summer nonstop flight to LaGuardia Airport, as noted on the airport’s website. That means travelers now have two options to fly nonstop to New York this summer; American Airlines is the other.
The addition of a third carrier is also driving the airport’s ever-increasing passenger traffic. United Airlines began service at ILM in April 2018, providing more options to travelers going in and out of ILM.
“[United flies] nonstop between ILM and Chicago O’Hare as well as Washington-Dulles,” McNally said.
United added a third daily flight to Washington Dulles International Airport to accommodate the busy summer travel season.
Also fueling passenger growth: Two ILM airlines are using larger aircraft for connecting flights to Charlotte Douglas International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
“Delta and American Airlines have upgauged their aircraft, meaning the planes are now larger and have more seats,” McNally said.
More seats mean more travel opportunities for passengers to go through ILM.
“All of these factors helped increase the capacity at ILM,” Mc- Nally added. “The community has responded to the additional service and seat capacity, selecting ILM as their airport of choice and bolstering ILM’s passenger numbers.”
As for ILM’s top destinations, airport officials named New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Denver and Atlanta among the top 10.
But it’s too soon to tell whether the monthly uptick over last spring and summer numbers will continue through Labor Day.
While July passenger statistics weren’t available as of press time, McNally said.
“ILM has continued to see a positive year-over-year increase.”
As of June, ILM has had more than 252,000 arrivals and more than 252,000 departures this year. Combined, that’s more than halfway to outpacing its 2018 passenger record.
To that end, a three-phase terminal expansion project is underway to accommodate passenger growth.
Currently, in the second phase, the project is adding room to the terminal to allow for a potential fourth airline in the future.
“The terminal expansion is based on a terminal study completed in 2015 and is designed to accommodate ILM’s projected growth for approximately the next 15-20 years,” McNally said. “The new terminal should facilitate an enplanement [or boardings] of 705,000 passengers once complete.”
Phase 2 is expected to be completed next summer, adding nearly 15,000 square feet to the terminal. The extra room will also provide more ticket counter space, expand the lobby and more.
“We went vertical this past week and are currently raising the steel structure, which should be weather tight in about one month,” McNally said recently of the second phase status. “After these components are complete, we will finish the interior components, of this second phase, for the rest of the year.
“Phase three of the terminal expansion begins construction late fall/ early winter [of 2020],” she added.
The project’s final phase will add nearly 68,000 square feet of space. The third phase – expected to wrap in 2022 – will expand the gate area, add a TSA security checkpoint and provide more dining options.
Overall, the terminal will expand by 75 percent over the next three years to more than 162,000 square feet, once the entire project is complete.
As passenger numbers continue to grow, parking needs are increasing too.
McNally said the airport is conducting a parking study “to determine how to best meet the needs of travelers.”
In the meantime, ILM launched a parking information system that tracks parking availability in real time. The parking interface (flyilm. com/parking-options) lets the public view the number of spaces available in each parking lot.
“This new parking feature allows travelers to view available parking spaces and conveniently plan ahead before they depart for the airport,” McNally said.