BTR passenger numbers continue to climb, but rising ticket prices seen as threat

The Baton Rouge Metro Airport. (Collin Ritchie)

Travel demand continues to increase at Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport but inflation and airline staffing issues could hold numbers back in coming months.

Recent passenger numbers at the airport have been close to 90% of what they were in 2019, says Jim Caldwell, air service development, marketing and public relations manager.

The most recent week was the strongest since the pandemic began, Caldwell says. How much of that is related to the ending of federal mask mandates, he’s not sure. However, he knows pent-up travel demand is a key factor. 

Inflation has not impacted ticket sales yet, Caldwell says, but it could soon. Elevated prices are leading some Americans to change their travel plans, Axios reports.

For now, pent-up demand is outweighing inflation concerns among travelers at the Baton Rouge airport.

One of the biggest challenges for the industry has been finding enough crew members and pilots, he says. Carriers have been trying to add flights, and Delta plans to replace all of its regional jets at the airport with 717s by June. 

If seating capacity reaches 2019 numbers, passenger numbers should follow, Caldwell says. The problem is that staffing issues reduce seating capacity.

“There’s definitely good demand,” he says. “We’re pleased with it. We just hope we can get some additional seats on the market.”