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'Encouraging' Recovery Takes Wing at John Wayne Airport

Aviation: Numbers of passengers, flights are climbing. But December figures are 6% below those of a year earlier.


Bolstered by holiday travel, passenger loads and the number of flights at John Wayne Airport continued to recover in December, but remained almost 6% less than a year earlier, according to figures presented Monday to Orange County supervisors.

"Last month was encouraging," said Ann McCarley, an airport spokeswoman. "The numbers have been getting better and better every month" following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Statistics show that the airport accommodated 572,000 passengers in December, 5.7% fewer than the same period a year earlier. But McCarley said that from Dec. 20 to 24, the number of travelers was comparable to a year earlier.

The latest figures reflect a substantial improvement since September, when the number of passengers passing through John Wayne Airport plummeted by about one-third, from 600,000 in 2000 to 400,000 in 2001.

County officials noted that the airport handled 7,249 commercial flights in December, which was within 6.6% of the volume for the same period a year earlier. That number also was an improvement over November.

Additional security costs for December were $741,000, bringing the total since Sept. 11 to slightly more than $2.5 million, the report states.

In early December, airport officials estimated John Wayne Airport's loss as a result of the terrorist attacks at $10.4 million for fiscal year 2001-02. To help recover, they have proposed increasing parking rates and rents for hangars and aircraft storage.

Since Sept. 11, county supervisors have required the airport to file monthly reports detailing passenger volume, flight operations and security costs, among other statistics.

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