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Fliers

The number of people who have flown into Fort Wayne International Airport in recent years, and how many have gotten off the plane (deplaned) or stayed on (enplaned).

Year Enplaned Deplaned Total
2008 287,343 286,613 573,956
2009 266,176 264,600 530,776
2010 277,101 273,345 550,446
2011 277,938 274,345 552,283
2012 284,465 280,312 564,777
Through May 2013 114,778 112,933 227,711

Source: Fort Wayne International Airport

Luggage circles the airport's baggage claim area on Tuesday afternoon. The aiport caters to business travelers.

The business of traveling

Fort Wayne's airport renovates amenities, surveys local companies

Photos by Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Passengers arrive and others are passed through security at the Fort Wayne International Airport Tuesday afternoon.

For her job, Rachel Bennett Steury is a frequent traveler.

Some of these trips are drivable, but her most frequent stop as a field coordinator for the Alliance for American Manufacturing is Washington, D.C.

And to get there, she usually finds herself at Fort Wayne International Airport.

"I try to use Fort Wayne's airport as much as I can," Steury said.

According to airport officials, roughly 70 percent of travelers that come through the airport's doors are like Steury:

Traveling for business, trying to make a conference or meeting in another town, sometimes a time-zone or two away, and using a hub that is more convenient than other airports like Indianapolis or South Bend.

Because of this, the airport has tried to cater to the business traveling crowd in recent years, adding new amenities such as an upgraded business center, free Wi-Fi and a remodeled restaurant and coffee shop.

Also in the works is rolling out an e-boarding pass, which will allow travelers to scan tickets on their smart phones instead of printing them out.

"They're our biggest customers," said Jessica Miller, marketing and air service specialist for the airport, of business travelers.

Currently, the airport is pushing a survey to many area businesses asking what might be needed to improve travel.

The survey is expected to be completed in the coming weeks.

The airport offers one-stop destinations to Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Dallas, Minneapolis, Myrtle Beach, Orlando, Fort Myers and Tampa, according to its website.

But Miller said airport officials are always on the lookout for new destinations, if possible, and that's what part of the survey will be asking.

"If we find a market people are demanding, and it can be supported by the community, we'll certainly chase it and try to get it," she said.

Many business travelers use the airport because of its proximity to their main building, even though some flights might be a little cheaper elsewhere.

WaterFurnace Renewable Energy Inc. flies in a sales team once or twice a year, as well as other employees, and always uses Fort Wayne's airport.

It helps that WaterFurnace is close by, meaning no two-hour drives to get there.

"I think it usually ends up being a little more expensive than somewhere else, but the convenience factor is huge," said Laura Harris, a marketing specialist for the company.

Steury, based in Auburn, said she doesn't use Indianapolis because of the drive to and from that city as well as the cheap parking at the local airport.

"Sometimes, if I need to be dropped off, it's easier to be dropped off in Fort Wayne," she said.

The airport has also seen a slight increase in the number of travelers who have gotten off planes at the airport in recent years.

More than 280,000 deplaned last year, up from more than 270,000 in 2011, according to airport data.

If there is one suggestion Steury has, it's showcasing more local goods at the gift shop, like she sees at other airports.

"The Fort Wayne gift shop could do so much more to promote manufacturing in Fort Wayne," she said. "Even those cookies they hand you when you get off the plane, they're made right across the street, but no one knows it."

"We should share all the good things we do."

jeffwiehe@jg.net

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