Flint, Mich., Airport Looks to Expand to Increase Passenger Capacity

FLINT, Mich. -- After another record-breaking year, officials are planning expansions that will nearly double Bishop International Airport's capacity to 2 million passengers a year.

Bishop is on track to continue its 20-plus percent growth for the third straight year in 2004, The Flint Journal reported in a Tuesday story. The industry average for growth is less than 6 percent.

In October, Bishop for the first time in its history served its 1 millionth passenger in a single year. Officials project total traffic for 2004 to reach about 1.17 million.

With planned upgrades and more parking, the airport could eventually handle 2 million passengers, Airport Director James L. Rice II said.

In January, officials will open a new ticket counter area that makes room for three more carriers. The Airport Authority Board will also consider approval next month of a planned expansion of the luggage claim section.

About 800 more parking spaces will be added in late 2005, and talks are under way to build a long-term parking garage.

Bishop is increasingly attracting fliers from throughout eastern Michigan, benefiting from its easy in-and-out reputation and Oakland County travelers who find it quicker and more convenient that Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

An Air Travel Consumer Report, released by the U.S. Department of Transportation in October, named Bishop the most on-time airport in the state for the past year.

John R. Schmitt Jr., director of marketing and group sales of Superior Travel Services in Genesee County, said that the airport's emphasis on customer service has helped it succeed.

Schmitt said all his customers ask to fly out of Bishop and about 70 percent are actually getting flights from here. Things are only looking up for the future, he said.

"They will be more than capable of hitting the 2 million mark, and I think it will happen faster than the 1 million mark did," Schmitt said.