Air passenger traffic down in Manchester

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MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) – One airline folded and two others switched to smaller planes, leading to a 10 percent drop in passenger traffic last year at the state’s largest airport.

The number of people flying out of Manchester-Boston Regional Airport fell from 4.3 million in 2005 to 3.9 million in 2006, a decrease of 400,000, airport officials said.

Assistant airport director Brian O’Neill said the decline can be traced to the bankruptcy of Independence Air in January 2006, and US Airways and Delta changing over to smaller aircraft because of high fuel costs and industry consolidation.

Medium-size airports across the country were affected by similar changes, he said.

But O’Neill said he predicts a rebound in the first half of 2007. He credited aggressive industry lobbying by airport executive director Kevin Dillon.

“What created the challenges in 2006 is creating opportunities in 2007,” O’Neill said.

Airlines are adding more flights to Manchester this year: one more daily flight to Orlando, Fla., and six more daily flights to Philadelphia. The weekly schedule also includes more flights to Cleveland, the New York City area, Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Chicago and Toronto. US Airways also will use bigger planes on flights to Philadelphia.

In all, the changes will add more than 7,500 passenger seats a week, O’Neill said.

“We are beginning to recapture the lost seat capacity,” he said.

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