Reno-Tahoe International Airport flying high into 2017
RENO, Nev. — The Reno-Tahoe International Airport is flying high with an improving economy and the announcement of a dozen new flights in the last couple years.
The most recent addition, direct flights to and from Atlanta on Delta Airlines for the ski season, had its inaugural flight Dec. 20.
“It’s great, really great,” Brian Kulpin, vice president of marketing and public affairs for the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority, said during a phone interview with the NNBW regarding the great year 2016 has been for the airport.
He expects great things to continue.
“We’re always talking to airlines,” he said. “If it has wings, we’re talking to it.”
In 2016 the airport authority brought a record number of airport executives to the region, he said.
Kulpin noted the importance of the airport to the region, which is fairly isolated.
“We know air service is really vital to the community.”
Particular targets for direct flights in the future include, north of the border, Calgary and Vancouver, Canada, he said. South of the border, the airport hopes to add Tijuana and Mexico City, perhaps with Volaris Airlines, which currently flies between Reno and Guadalajara, Mexico.
Within the U.S. borders, the airport authority is working on getting flights to Houston, and Boston is another possibility.
“Washington, D.C., is always on our radar,” Kulpin said. “It would take a lot to get that flight. Every airport wants flights to Washington.”
The Reno-Tahoe International Airport currently handles approximately 9,400 passengers and 108 commercial aircraft arriving and departing every day, according to data updated in August.
RTIA handles more than 100 daily flights that include non-stop connections to nearly two-dozen destinations. Eight passenger airlines plus three cargo airlines service the airport.
The RTIA generates approximately $2 billion per year for the local economy from passengers as they visit the area resorts and casinos, shop, lodge, and dine throughout the region.
Besides cargo and passenger traffic, the Reno-Stead Airport, which is also under the authority’s jurisdiction, is active in drone and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) research and technology. RSA has worked with NASA on a number of projects.
“It will be interesting to see where it goes in our region,” Kulpin said.
Looking ahead, way ahead, the airport authority in November embarked on a process to craft a new 20-year master plan.
“The master planning process will be very active for us in the coming year,” he said.
Northwestern Nevada is growing and changing. With a steady stream of new companies setting up shop in the market, about 50,000 new jobs are expected in the five-year period from 2015-2020. That also will increase the population flying in and out of the airport, both residents and visitors.
“A lot of things are changing in the community,” Marily Mora, the chief executive officer of the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority, told the NNBW when the master plan process was announced in November. “We need a comprehensive plan” rather than revising the old plan.
“The last 20 years we’ve seen significant changes and going forward we’re going to see more,” she said.
The airport has contracted with Mead & Hunt, a national firm specializing in airport planning, to develop the new master plan.
The planning process will take a total of 16-months and cost $1.8 million. The FAA will pick up $1.4 million of the cost through its Airport Improvement Program Grants. The remaining will be funded through the airport’s Passenger Facility Charge. No tax dollars will be used for the master plan.
The airport authority held an open house last month to explain the master plan process. It attracted about 23-24 people — a pretty good turn out for the first meeting, Kulpin said.
Currently, the consultant is busy doing assessments about the airport, looking at current numbers and what’s forecast for the future. It will also provide recommendations for what the airport needs to do to accommodate future needs.
“I can’t wait to get that assessment and take it to the community,” Kulpin said.
Additional public meetings are planned every few months.