EUGENE, Ore. -- As people get back to traveling, the Eugene airport is seeing passenger numbers take off.
Cathryn Stephens, the acting airport director, said they've recently added a lot of new air services and nonstop routes. In March, Avelo started flying out of Eugene. Southwest joined their team in August, which welcomed a lot of travelers. They also gained services to major hubs like Santa Ana and Dallas.
For June and July, passenger numbers were at an all-time high, according to Stephens. They have not released exact numbers at this time, but she said adding on these new carriers has made it more convenient for locals to fly out of Eugene instead of driving up to Portland.
"We're not necessarily seeing brand new passengers; what we're seeing is passengers that would have in the past taken a drive all the way up to the other very nice airport up the road," Stephens said. "Instead, they are now staying and using their local airport, which is great because that helps our local economy."
But Stephens said their latest figures show that 41% of local passengers still choose to fly out of Portland. She is hopeful that more people will start booking flights out of Eugene as they continue to add additional airlines. Another will soon take off: Aha! ExpressJet will fly in and out of Eugene beginning Nov. 1.
With these additions, Stephens told KEZI it's time to expand. Over the weekend, airport officials said their parking lots almost overflowed. They had to make adjustments to accommodate this passenger increase.
"We are going to need to expand our facility pretty soon," Stephens said. "So, we are currently working on an advanced terminal study that will show us exactly what we need. You know, do we need additional gates, do we need additional holding rooms, space, all of those different things. So that's an exciting time for us."
Flight attendant Mia Delbando said she's noticed an increase in passengers flying out of Eugene.
"It's been fun to see why people are coming over, maybe for school or for work," Delbando said. "But it's definitely been a major increase."
She said the best part of her job is watching people reunite with their families, especially since the pandemic.