MANATEE -- A newly audited financial analysis shows that the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport has pulled back about a quarter of the business it lost in 2012 and 2013 when major carrier AirTran Airways ended its service there.
The report, completed for the 2015 fiscal year ended in September and audited by Tampa CPA firm Cherry Bekaert, also shows the airport and its governing authority in a better financial position than in 2014 on the strength of more passengers passing through its gates.
What the numbers mean for SRQ right now is that business was up 6.3 percent in December and 2 percent for the calendar year. Airport CEO Fredrick "Rick" Piccolo said demand for flights in and out of the airport has brought on new seasonal service and more capacity of late. Carriers are starting to fly larger aircraft in and out of the airport, and some seasonal service is starting earlier to accommodate travelers who want to get to Florida at the start of winter.
Since seeing five-year passenger volumes bottom in its 2013 fiscal year at 590,753, SRQ built passenger enplanements back to nearly 611,000 in 2015. While that is still about 57,000 off a 2011 peak when AirTran was still operating there, airport officials believe volume will continue to trend up.
At year's end, the airport was in a better overall financial position than it was in 2014. Its net financial position of just over $149 million showed an increase of about $4.2 million year-over-year.
The Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority has made a number of moves during the past two years to improve its finances. In 2014, it paid off a $150 million mortgage it had used to build the airport terminal and otherwise improve the airport. Later that year, the authority negotiated with air carriers Delta, American, Jet Blue, United and Air Canada to take complete control of revenue from the airport's non-aviation properties. It will gave the authority a greater share of concession revenues, net revenues generated by terminal services and all the net income generated by leased terminal spaces.
In 2015, the airport added a sixth major carrier, welcoming Canada-based WestJet to begin seasonal, twice weekly flights between SRQ and Toronto. It also attracted Raven Air, a small airline that began thrice-weekly flights between SRQ and Key West on Jan. 13.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027 or on Twitter@MattAtBradenton.