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HIA passengers up, cargo down in 2012

By , - Last modified: January 25, 2013 at 9:28 AM

Harrisburg International Airport this week reported year-end statistics that saw total passengers moving through the airport increase about 1 percent and cargo tonnage decrease more than 5 percent.

The total passengers arriving and departing from HIA in Lower Swatara Township were slightly more than 1.3 million, or 15,000 more than in 2011, according to the airport's operator Susquehanna Area Regional Airport Authority, or SARAA.

A large reduction over the whole year was the exit of AirTran Airways, which had its last flights to and from HIA in August. During the year, AirTran had 31 percent fewer passengers through HIA, according to the statistics.

That was a big deal for the airport, but the addition of Frontier Airlines and Allegiant Air buoyed the passenger numbers to give the airport the increase, HIA spokesman Scott Miller said.

Total cargo tonnage for the year was 51,435, down 2,909 tons, or 5.4 percent, from 2011, according SARAA. Federal Express, the airport's largest shipper, had cargo that was down 9.6 percent for the year. UPS cargo was up 4.6 percent. Other cargo was down 26 percent, and commercial cargo was down 14.4 percent.

Part of the reason for the drop in cargo tonnage was that, in 2011 when flooding devastated many parts of the Susquehanna Valley, HIA received a large spike in cargo traffic because companies had to fly in materials, equipment and supplies that were destroyed in the floods, Miller said. That volume wasn't present in 2012 as operations for those companies got back to normal.

Other freight companies put more packages on trucks to reach regional destinations such as Pittsburgh because of the rising costs of jet fuel in 2012, he said. Both scenarios are partially responsible for the cargo drop.

SARAA at its January meeting also approved a $41,600 increase to the contracts for Urban Engineers Inc. to prepare plans for the demolition of the old airport terminal building, a former Air Force barracks and the former Sunshine Restaurant. The airport could begin taking bids from demolition companies this spring, Miller said.

Philadelphia-based Urban Engineers has an office in Upper Allen Township, Cumberland County.

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