The Lafayette airport is steadily growing with the number of boarding passengers increasing annually, yet the airport is still much smaller compared to other airports across the United States.
Compared with airports from areas with a similar population to the Lafayette area, the Lafayette airport is smaller both in size and in the number of passengers it sees.
From 2018 to 2019, the number of boarding passengers, for Lafayette Regional Paul Fournet Field increased by 23%, according to the airport’s executive director Steven Picou. The year before, the number of passengers increased 10%, according to data from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The airport is trying to further accommodate this growth with an expansion that was announced in 2019. The expansion will include a new terminal housing five gates and is set to be completed in 2021.
Picou said this expansion is needed because the airport is currently the smallest in the state though it serves the fourth largest number of passengers.
However, this expansion will not add more acreage to the current airport, according to Picou. The new terminal will be built on existing land where an old terminal is located. The old terminal is set to be destroyed after the new terminal is built.
The Lafayette airport itself is the smallest airport by acreage compared to other airports in similarly populated areas. It is 20% smaller than the second smallest airport of these areas, which located in Asheville, North Carolina.
Even with the airport’s growth, the overall number of boarding passengers passing through Lafayette Regional Paul Fournet Field is still lower than other areas. In 2018, the Lafayette airport had the second smallest total number of boarding passengers compared to airports in similarly populated areas, according to data from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The Lafayette airport also had the second lowest number of total passenger miles traveled domestically, or within the United States, in 2019. Passengers averaged about 2,000 miles traveled during 2019, according to data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
Yet with adding five more gates, passenger numbers may go up, especially if new airlines set up shop in the Lafayette airport. Picou said that some airlines could potentially be looking at the Lafayette area because of this new growth.
The gates are being built with the potential to house planes that are larger and carry more passengers than what the airport typically sees, allowing the hold areas to be capable of more traffic, according to Picou.
The possible increase in passengers could also provide future growth in tourism, according to Ben Berthelot, president of the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission.
“While a new airport terminal won’t lead to new visitors overnight, for many the Lafayette airport is their first impression of our area. I think we can all agree that the current facilities haven’t kept up with the growth we have experienced as a region, and because of its age, isn’t always the best representation of our area as a first impression,” said Berthelot.
Berthelot also said, “The new terminal project at the airport and expansion that comes with it also helps to prepare us for the future with the ability for growth. So as tourism continues to grow, our airport will be able to grow with us as well.”