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Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport Progress Edition

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It might seem a little obvious to say, but things at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport are on the up and up. The Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport has a wide array of uses -- from servicing small sports aircraft all the way up to jet planes such as a Boeing 757, providing package and mail transportation, medical helicopter services, charter flights, avionics, training, private aircraft housing, as well as commercial travel, and more. “This airport is the best of both worlds -- it’s the smaller airport where you can enjoy aviation from a recreational standpoint, yet it’s big enough to enjoy the larger amenities like the bigger airports,” Director Steve Wright said. The proof is in the pudding -- both in terms of commercial flights, corporate fliers or private aviators. The Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport is coming off a banner year in 2017 when the terminal served more than 20,000 passenger trips (or, in aviation jargon, an “enplanement,” a term for each time a passenger boards a plane). The increase amounts to an average monthly increase of 18.1 percent over the previous year. December alone saw a 41.7 percent increase compared to 2016. This represents the latest leap in an upward trend extended back years. As recently as 2014, the airport served 16,000 passenger trips. These trends, Wright said, are continuing in 2018. “It’s other people coming from outside of the Brainerd lakes area, coming in to experience what we have to offer,” Wright said. Wright said, as a whole, the airport is approaching the threshold in terms of passenger trips, a 50 percent load factor, when they may look at adding another carrier beyond Delta Airlines. The summer months, in particular, are rising above that benchmark in terms of traffic, he added, while the winter months bring the yearlong average down a notch for the time being. Until then, it’s a matter of preparing the airport to properly accommodate and serve that influx. Much of that, Wright said, could be credited to business flyers -- a subset of the customer base that, compared to tourist travel, remains relatively steady throughout the year. Andy Larson is a public speaker who often travels across the country to lecture on financial services. His expertise is primarily in retirement services and pension funds -- a role, he noted, that regularly takes him to faraway places, from New York City to Los Angeles and everything in between. Larson said the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport, in terms of travel, is a sound option because of its expediency -- whether it’s the 30-second trek from the free parking lot to the terminal, the exceptionally short wait times in security and baggage-claims, or the smooth 20-minute commute to the Twin Cities. He noted the airport’s reliability in terms of flight times is also comparable or better than larger competitors in the metro markets. “There’s just something I don’t like about sitting 45 minutes in a security line, so I fly out of Brainerd,” said Larson, who travels via the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport roughly four to eight times a month. “A lot less time, a lot less complications.”
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