WATERTOWN — The Watertown International Airport set a major milestone this year, with more than 43,000 passengers using the airport as of Nov. 30.
This is the highest number of passengers using the airport since it began using major passenger air carriers years ago. American Airlines provides twice-daily flights to and from Philadelphia.
November alone saw a 59 percent increase in passenger use compared to last November, with 4,743 passengers going to and from the airport.
Passenger numbers have significantly increased at Watertown International since it reintroduced the 50-seat model CRJ 200 jet aircraft on July 6.
“The thanks really goes out to the community for supporting the local airport and airline service,” said Watertown International Airport Manager Grant W. Sussey.
Prior to July, American Airlines had been using the 37-seat Bombardier Dash 8 turboprop plane for more than a year to accommodate construction projects at the airport, particularly last year’s runway extension from 6,000 feet to 7,001 feet.
Funding for the $3.5 million extension was granted through the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Improvement Program in 2015.
American Airlines will now keep the jet service at Watertown International year-round, which was ultimately the purpose of extending the runway by 1,000 feet. Larger passenger jet aircraft need certain runway lengths to land in winter conditions.
The airport has exceeded 10,000 passenger enplanements since implementing its twice-daily Philadelphia flights, entitling it to $1 million from the Federal Aviation Administration every year. Last year saw 35,756 passengers flown to and from Watertown International Airport using the smaller Dash 8 aircraft.
“We look forward to 2018 and beyond as we continue to grow,” said Philip N. Reed, of the county Legislature’s General Services Committee. “We also appreciate the investment and support by our federal, state and local partners as we continue to exceed expectations with what will be our highest year passenger count since the county and major air carrier service started.”