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Another stellar year at Downing Peoria International Airport

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Not every year can be a record setter, but 2016 was nonetheless a stellar one for the General Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport.

The airport announced Tuesday that 623, 134 passengers used it in 2016, less than 3 percent off 2015’s record-setting year, when 641,477 passengers went through, making it the fourth consecutive record-setting year.

Other highlights from 2016 included:

  • The airport opened and dedicated its new international terminal last April. The terminal is named the Ray LaHood International Terminal in honor of the former U.S. Secretary of Transportation and Congressman Ray LaHood of Peoria. The new terminal has a full-service Customs and Border Protection facility as well as dual-purposes gates for domestic and international travel.
  • New twice-daily flights to Charlotte, North Carolina were added in November, giving central Illinois direct access to six major hubs. That includes four of the five most connected airports in the world. Now with 12 destinations, PIA has more nonstop flights than any other Illinois airport outside of Chicago.
  • The Peoria airport achieved a perfect score from the Federal Aviation Administration during a rigorous annual certification and safety inspection.

“We made a number of strides in 2016 that we are particularly proud of, including opening the new international terminal,” said Gene Olson, director of airports for the Metropolitan Airport Authority of Peoria. “Our growth trajectory has been such that we needed, and immediately filled, the new gates we added earlier this year.”

Olson said 2017 is off to a good start. In February, American Airlines will upgrade to larger jets for flights to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), offering first class service in Peoria for the first time in many years.

Additionally, low-cost carrier Allegiant recently announced that it will add seasonal service to Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport (VPS), starting in May.

“We expect a direct flight to the Emerald Coast will be very popular because of the many generations from this area who vacation there, and we’ve been overwhelmed by positive responses since the announcement,” Olson said. “Meanwhile, Charlotte, our newest route, continues to gain steam as travelers recognize that it is a great way to connect to the East Coast and abroad.”

Charlotte-Douglas International Airport (CLT) is American Airlines’ second-largest hub, with more than 700 daily flights, including daily connections to key cities such as Washington, D.C., New York City, Boston and Baltimore.

OAG, an aviation data analytics company, recently released its 2016 Megahubs Index, which measured possible connections at the world’s 100 largest airports. Chicago O’Hare International Airport led the list, followed by Atlanta, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver and Charlotte.

With the addition of Charlotte, PIA now flies to four of the five most connected airports in the world. 

“We know that travelers have options so we very much appreciate the community’s support,” said Olson. “For our part, we’re going to continue to make PIA the airport that people want to travel from.”

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).