Opinion: Progress at Reno-Tahoe airport bodes well for 2016 | SierraSun.com

Opinion: Progress at Reno-Tahoe airport bodes well for 2016

Marily Mora
Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority

Marily Mora

A look back at 2015 can provide hints about what we can expect at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport and Reno-Stead Airport in the coming year.

Just like the non-stop flights at Reno-Tahoe International, our air service team works non-stop to bring new flights, new airlines, and additional seats into the region.

The Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority reached new heights in 2015 with several new flights and the highest customer service scores in their history.

The RTAA is the owner and operator of the Reno-Tahoe International Airport and Reno-Stead Airport. It is governed by a nine member Board of Trustees, operates as a business, and receives no local tax dollars.

Together, the airports generate an annual economic impact of $2 billion for the region. As the 66th busiest commercial airport in the nation, Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO) serves approximately 3.4 million passengers per year. And in 2015, the RTAA helped the regional economy take-off in a variety of ways.

Led by a diverse, business-minded Board of Trustees, we are following a Strategic Plan that focuses on Air Service, Economic Development, General Aviation, Providing a Positive Environment, and Cargo Development.

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In 2015, the Airport Authority earned the highest rankings ever from our customers for safety and security, customer service and the cleanliness of our terminal.

The Airport passed the Federal Aviation Administration Part 139 test, which involves a rigorous inspection of the entire airfield. RNO rebuilt a major taxiway to enhance aviation safety.

Staff has charged ahead on geographic information system (GIS) to prepare for future enhancements in aviation navigation.

We took the lead in educating our region about safe drone flying and host unmanned aerial systems business at the Reno-Stead Airport.

The Airport Authority refinanced debt in 2015, and RNO remains one of the most efficient airports in North America.

The Reno-Stead Airport is now the proud home of a military museum that celebrates the rich military history of the former Reno Army Air Base and Stead Air Force Base.

Led by the Airport Authority, legislation was passed in 2015 that supports future aviation growth and development.

We kept our passengers, tenants and employees safe at Reno-Tahoe International and Reno-Stead Airports.

And what's an airport without Air Service? The Reno-Tahoe International Airport was proud to announce new flights in 2015, on JetBlue to New York, Volaris to Guadalajara, Alaska to Boise and Alaska to Orange County and Southwest to Oakland.

For the first time since 1999, the airport brought back the "international" in Reno-Tahoe International, with non-stop flights between Guadalajara, Mexico and Reno-Tahoe.

While private pilots for business or recreation between Canada, Reno and Mexico, RNO had not offered scheduled commercial international flights since the 1990s. And Guadalajara is the perfect market for the Reno-Tahoe region, with a Hispanic population of about 35 percent, the vast majority of whom are from Jalisco, Mexico.

Volaris Airlines began service in December of 2014 with two flights per week, and thanks to the success of those flights, they added service this past November to now offer three weekly flights. Non-stop to Guadalajara on Volaris gives RNO a reason to fiesta.

In May of 2015, Reno-Tahoe International Airport joined the City of Reno, business and tourism officials, and the ski community to welcome JetBlue.

The Big Apple got closer to the Biggest Little City when JetBlue began non-stop daily service between John F. Kennedy (JFK) Airport and Reno-Tahoe International, connecting the cities in a way like none before.

Not only did RNO bring NYC to the region, but we welcomed a new air carrier, JetBlue, known in the aviation industry for its low fares and focus on customer service. And for the first time, the Airport Authority worked with regional business, ski and tourism officials to form a truly successful partnership that adds lift to the community.

Air Service continued to grow in 2015 when Alaska Airlines stepped up to demonstrate its commitment to Reno-Tahoe. Alaska began non-stop service to Boise in November, re-connecting two cities that were once accessible via Southwest. Now closer together for business, leisure … and football, Boise on Alaska Airlines was a touchdown for air service!

But Alaska didn't stop there. Last fall Alaska Airlines announced new, daily non-stop flights between Reno and Orange County, starting in March 2016.

With the Los Angeles basin a busy market for both commuters and leisure travelers, Orange County gives passengers more convenient options. Whether you're escaping the cold for a sunny Disney adventure, or leaving SoCal to hit the slopes of Lake Tahoe, Alaska Airlines makes it easy to travel between Reno and Orange County.

The year ended on a high note with one additional flight announcement when RNO joined Southwest Airlines in celebrating the return of the non-stop Oakland route. Southwest previously served Oakland, but discontinued service in June of 2013.

The Reno-Tahoe community asked for the flight back and demanded the route that benefits business travel between the two cities. And on the 25th anniversary of Southwest's service at Reno-Tahoe International, Southwest announced the flight was back! Starting June 5, 2016, three daily non-stop flights between Reno and Oakland will be a welcome addition to RNO's schedule.

With positive passenger growth in 2015 and record-breaking numbers in air cargo, Reno-Tahoe International Airport is giving lift to the Reno-Tahoe region. And with support from the community to fill the airline seats that the airport offers, we hope that 2016 will be a year when Reno-Tahoe International continues to soar!

Marily Mora is the president and CEO of the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority, the governing board for the Reno-Tahoe International and Reno-Stead airports.