St. George Regional Airport has big plans for future; seeks to maintain current passenger fees

A Skywest flight with returning Utah National Guard members taxis under a water cannon salute at the St. George Regional Airport, St. George, Utah, Jan. 31, 2019 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The St. George Regional Airport has submitted the required paperwork with the Federal Aviation Administration to keep the status quo on fees it charges to passengers boarding all domestic, territorial or international flights.

The current fee of $4.50 is scheduled to expire on Dec. 31; however, airport leadership has decided to continue charging the same fee effective Jan. 1 and expiring Dec. 31, 2030.

If approved, it is anticipated that when the fees expire in 2030, they will have generated slightly more than $3.2 million in revenue.

The airport generates income from the fees that must stay in its coffers to cover its share of improvement projects. In a past interview, Airport Manager Richard Stehmeier said that for major projects, the FAA pays approximately 90% of the costs with the airport picking the remaining 10%.

Airport officials say keeping the fees in place will pay for its portion on a host of future projects.

Among the big-ticket items are a more than $1.8 million pavement preservation project that will include a coat of fog seal, and repainting and restriping all markings designated runways, taxiways and aircraft parking aprons. The airport’s portion for these projects is slightly more than $200,000.

Test of the rebuilt runway’s lights at the St. George Regional Airport, St. George, Utah, Sept. 18, 2019 | Photo courtesy of the City of St. George, St. George News

The airport will also spend nearly $1 million to update its master plan. The airport’s direct costs are anticipated to be $90,644.

Having a current master plan is an FAA requirement.

This project will allow for future development at the airport, designed to be beneficial for the airline tenants. It will define the location of future hangars and economic development inside and around the airport. The master plan is a valuable planning tool, according to airport officials.

Jan. 1, 2021, the airport will undergo a $1 million remodel to the terminal secure area. Passenger fees will pay for the entire project.

The remodel will include improvements and elevator access to the observation room on the second floor. The airport’s stairs are currently only being used for staff or emergencies. They will be removed and an open escalator system will be installed in its place, allowing access to the observation deck for screened passengers.

The improvements will also increase the secure area capacity to approximately 350 passengers.

Airport officials say this will allow the facility to accept larger and more frequent airline flights. Without the improvements, the airport is restricted to 250 passengers in the secure observation deck.

Along with this project, an $11 million project is also scheduled to begin on Jan. 1, 2021. The airport’s portion of the project will be slightly more than $1 million, which will be paid through fees.

Jan. 1, 2022, will see several projects including a $75,000 upgrade to the airport’s security access control system. Passenger fees will pay for the entire project.

A plane at the St. George Regional Airport as seen from the airport’s observation lounge, St. George, Utah, June 2015 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The original security system is 10 years old. Many of its components are hard to replace. Now, because of the lack of parts and support, the system is scheduled for an upgrade. Airport fees will cover the cost of the improvement.

Along with American Airlines, Delta and United Airlines fly out of St. George. There are approximately 12 flights each day between the three carriers. Last year, more than 277,000 passengers flew in and out of the airport. During the first five months of 2019, the airport experienced a 30% increase in ridership during the same time period as in 2018.

With the exception of a drop in ridership in 2013 from the loss of a flight to Los Angeles, and a six-month wait to start flights to Denver, the airport has experienced an increase in the number of passengers by an average of 10-12% every year.

The FAA is expected to make its ruling on allowing St. George Regional Airport to keep its passenger fees at $4.50 by the end of the year.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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