New Flights and More Cargo, Business is Booming at Mid-America Airport
Mid-America Airport sits thirty or so minutes east of Downtown St. Louis. Built in 1997, Mid-America Airport was set to become a reliever airport for then overcrowded Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. At the time, a new airport made some sense. In 1997, Lambert Airport had just three runways, two of which could consistently be used by commercial aircraft. Two runways and just three main concourses were proving to be an issue for Trans World Airlines’ sprawling operations. Also during the late 1990s, airlines including Southwest Airlines were exploring St. Louis for increased or future service. Without firm plans for a new runway and indications of growth, Illinois decided to take advantage of cheap land adjacent to a massive runway and build a reliever airport.
Mid-America opened its doors in 1997 without any flights. However, there was little worry that within the next few years, the airport would see commercial flights. Unfortunately, Lambert-St. Louis Airport announced the construction of Terminal 2 and a fourth state of the art runway. Though Mid-America Airport wasn’t as attractive of an option with additions at Lambert Airport, there was still hope that the airport would see commercial service in the coming years.
That didn’t turn out to be the case. Instead, TWA was bought out by American Airlines and over the next five years, St. Louis went from being one of the largest airports in North America to non-hub status. During the decade that followed the TWA-American merger, Mid-America did see some passenger service. Allegiant Air briefly had non-stops to Orlando and Las Vegas and a Pan Am reboot served the airport for a year. After Allegiant Air left, the Mid-America airport occasionally saw cargo service.
Today; Expanded Passenger, Cargo Operations
For years, Mid-America Airport was hemorrhaging money and had zero perspective airline tenants. Finally, in 2012, Allegiant Air announced re-entry into the St. Louis region. Mid-America Airport, once again, saw passenger flights. As the US recovered from the 2008 recession, more and more American were taking vacations. This lead to significant growth at Mid-America Airport.
According to Mid-America Airport, the airport is close to breaking even. Additionally, the airport is up to eight destinations: Fort Lauderdale, Fort Walton Beach, Las Vegas, Orlando/Sanford, Punta Gorda (FL), St. Petersburg/Clearwater with seasonal service to Jacksonville, Myrtle Beach.
In 2016, 200,000 passengers passed through the airport. So far in 2017, the airport sees 6,000 weekly passengers from 25 flights operated by Allegiant Air. Growth has been so significant over the past four or so years that the airport recently expanded its parking lot.
In addition to passenger services on the rise, the airport has seen an increase in cargo operations. One of the world’s largest cargo aircraft, the Antonov An-124, has been making routine stops at the airport transporting helicopters overseas. The airport has also seen an increase in the utilization of its distribution center located adjacent to the passenger terminal.
Overall, the airport is expected to continue to grow in 2017. It will likely surpass 200,000 passengers outpacing other airports of its size. If cargo service continues to grow, the airport could break even within the next few years.