Profit potential: St. Cloud commercial flights outperform U.S. average

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Commercial flights at St. Cloud Regional Airport outperformed other airports across the nation last year in terms of load factor, which is a measure of performance in the airline industry, statistics show.

Load factor is a way to measure how many airplane seats were filled by paying passengers, which is important to airlines because it directly relates to profit potential.

For 2013, St. Cloud's airport had a load factor of 91.9 percent – it was the airport's first full year since its revival, the St. Cloud Times reports. The national load factor was 83.4 percent in 2013, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

As for the the first quarter of 2014, St. Cloud Regional Airport had a load factor of 86.54 percent, which is slightly lower than it's 2013 average, according to WJON. But the number of passengers handled at the local airport has spiked from 8,202 in the first three months of 2013 to 13,789 during the same period this year, the St. Cloud Times notes.

The St. Cloud Times says slipping passenger loads were one reason Allegiant Airlines announced to end its service between Rochester and Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.

Allegiant Air is one of two carriers that currently services the St. Cloud Regional Airport. In December 2012, Allegiant Air began service from St. Cloud to Mesa, Arizona, which relaunched the airport as a commercial flying base, the St. Cloud Times says. The airport had gone three years without a scheduled commercial carrier.

Airport Director Bill Towle said Allegiant Air looks for a load factor in the 90-percent range for its flights, WJON notes. The airline hasn't mentioned cuts in St. Cloud, which also offers flights to Orlando, Florida.

Since the St. Cloud airport's resurgence, it has struck a deal with SkyWest Airlines to provide twice-daily nonstop flights to Chicago's O'Hare Airport. They're set to begin May 6.

How the new route will perform remains to be seen, but the St. Cloud Times says the inaugural flight only had a few seats available as of this weekend. However, flights further into the future showed an average of 33 seats unassigned on the 50-seat jet, which is only a general indication of flight load, the paper notes.

Here's a snapshot of the load factor for other airports around the country in 2013 (the data below looks at U.S. carriers departing from the specific airport):

– Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport: 82.47 percent.
– Rochester, Minnesota International Airport: 76.97 percent.
– Duluth International Airport: 76.43 percent.
– Boston Logan International Airport: 84.30 percent.
– Los Angles International Airport: 86.26 percent.
– Chicago O'Hare International Airport: 84.39 percent.

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