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When 2018 ended, North Central West Virginia Airport Director Rick Rock was ecstatic. And he had good reason to be.
 
The airport, which for several years after 9/11 struggled to get just a few thousand passengers a year, had managed to nearly set a record. Rock announced that 38,296 passengers had flown out of Bridgeport.
 
The significance? It was the second-best number in 40 years as he had to go back as far as 1978 to find anything that could top it.
 
After the announcement, Rock was hopeful the airport could hit 50,000 passengers in 2019. The bad news is that it doesn’t look like that will happen. The good news is that it certainly appears that last year’s mark is about to be smashed and that efforts are under way to make 50,000 possible. Through October, the airport had 35,796 passengers.
 
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that we will break the 40,000 barrier. Again, that hasn’t happened since the 1970s. We are up 16 percent from where we are (at this time) last year, which was the second-best year since 1978,” Rock told the airport’s governing body, the Benedum Airport Authority, during the Nov 20 meeting. “Things are better than they were last year. What that final number will be, it all depends.”
 
If the airport meets last year’s numbers for November and December – or even come close – the airport should be in the range of 45,000 passengers. Charters from West Virginia University and Big 12 Conference sports-related flights nearly hit 900 for October.
 
Charter flights through that area will continue in December. One hit will be WVU not going to a bowl game, which often provided several hundred passengers to the total. Numbers on the United Express daily service to Chicago and Washington, D.C. are also up from last year.
 
“This is one of the busiest times of the year,” he said.
 
Next year, and beyond just the last year months, Rock is hoping to get a significant boost from Allegiant and the Orlando flight. Ironically, this boost won’t be for people traveling to this area to Florida, but rather the other way.
 
Rock has been working with Greater Bridgeport Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Cassie Busdeker on a new idea that was brought to Rock from officials in Florida. The idea was to bring Floridians to West Virginia to take advantage of tourism opportunities here through special deals and promotions. Those promotions would include individuals flying into Bridgeport and then traveling to destinations such as ski resorts and other venues not available in the Sunshine State.
 
Work on that proposal is ongoing, Busdeker said.
 
Rock has said the big numbers are more than just good to continue the existing fight services. Rock added that it’s also good to help in lobbying for expanded and new flight services. Eventually, Rock said, the numbers will allow airlines such as Allegiant to take risk and offer new or expanded services.
 
Editor’s Note: A United Express flight takes off in October, while NCWV Airport Director Rick Rock talks to members of the Airport Authority at the Nov. 20 meeting.