Just Askin': How full are flights at Willard Airport?
Email your biz questions to Ben Zigterman at email@example.com.
According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the average flight from Willard in 2016 was 81.75 percent full.
"If you look at our average, it's around 80 percent. If you look at our peaks, it's closer to 90 percent," said Willard Executive Director Gene Cossey.
The DOT measures occupancy by load factor, or the number of miles flown by passengers divided by the available miles that could be flown if the plane was full.
The load factor at Willard for outbound flights peaked last October (90.72 percent), while the slowest month was January (69.24 percent).
With the addition of United Airlines flights beginning June 8, Cossey expects the average load factor to decrease temporarily until more people become aware of the service.
A high load factor demonstrates demand and can help airports attract airlines. But if the flights are always full, potential customers might start to assume there won't be seats available.
Willard's average load factor in 2016 was slightly higher than at Bloomington-Normal's Central Illinois Regional Airport (77.30 percent) and Springfield's Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport (78.47 percent). Peoria International Airport's was 83.03 percent.
The industry average was 82.43 percent.
In 2003, the average load factor at Willard was 55.50 percent. Cossey said this reflects an industry shift by airlines from competing on volume to competing on efficiency.
"The airlines' business model really changed," he said. "They used to saturate the market with tons of seats and be happy with 60 percent. Now they want a fuller aircraft."