Eastern Iowa Airport Budget Takes a Hit from Weather

By George C. Ford, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - The Eastern Iowa Airport has handled 25 snow events through Monday, raising costs significantly to keep runways and taxiways open and parking lots cleared for travelers.

Donald Swanson, director of finance and administration, told the Cedar Rapids Airport Commission on Monday that the bill for deicing fluid, fuel and overtime will be substantially higher than it was last year.

"So far, through January, we've spent $106,021 for the deicing fluid that we buy for our runways and ramp," Swanson said. "Last year at this time, we were at $12,306.

"In terms of diesel fuel cost, we're at $96,690. Last year at this time, we were at $63,427.

"So far this year we've spent $361,987 for gasoline, compared with $335,357 last year."

Swanson said overtime is running about $24,000 above last year.
Airport Director Tim Bradshaw said about $159,000 in capital expenditures will be deferred to another year to cover the additional costs.

"We really didn't budget for all these snow events," Bradshaw said. "So far, we've had some minor repairs, but nothing major has happened to our equipment."

More than 80,000 flights have been cancelled by the nation's airlines due to the bitter cold, ice and snow that has gripped much of the nation. Despite the cancellations at hub airports like Chicago O'Hare International, Bradshaw said The Eastern Iowa Airport was still able to post another record month for passenger traffic in January.

A total of 83,664 passengers used the regional airport last month, topping the previous record of 81,690 in January 2007. Bradshaw said the airport was able to maintain service because of the multiple destination hubs that it serves, including Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, Detroit, Miami and Minneapolis.

"Our numbers are up again, showing there is a huge demand here," Bradshaw said. "It makes me wonder what our numbers would have been like if we hadn't had so many cancelled flights."

While passenger travel is setting records month after month, Bradshaw noted that the airlines have cut back on the number of flights and seats.

"It's very challenging for us to increase our numbers with the seats that are available," he said. "The airlines are flying full planes and in some cases they are oversold.

"I've heard announcements in the terminal where they're offering travelers cash if they will take a later flight. We're constantly talking with our airline planners, asking them to add more flights, but they just don't have the fleet to bring in here."
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