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Despite pandemic, Metro East airport saw flights surge last year

St. Louis Downtown Airport in Metro East announced that flight operations at the airport increased to a total of 101,938 during 2021, the highest total for the airport in the past five years.

The total number of flight operations exceeds 2019 numbers by more than 5 percent, which is considered significant since the coronavirus pandemic continued to significantly impact air travel in 2021. It represents a 31.2 percent increase over the 2020 flight operations, a strong signal private and business travel customers returned to the skies and flew in and out of the closest airport to downtown St. Louis.

“The overall trend for the first quarter of 2022 confirmed the rebound is continuing and is likely to see even greater acceleration due to key events drawing more travelers to the region in the coming months,” said Mary Lamie, executive vice president of Multi Modal Enterprises for Bi-State Development.

Bi-State Development owns and operates what is the busiest general aviation airport in Illinois, located on 1,000 acres in Cahokia Heights and Sauget. Airport operations were impacted by winter storms for a few days in February this year, but so far that is the only drop in flight operations that have been recorded in 2022.

“Our aviation customers choose to fly to St. Louis Downtown Airport for convenient access to the central business district, educational institutions, major sporting events, concerts, races and more,” said Sandra Shore, Director of St. Louis Downtown Airport. “They also appreciate the great service offered by a professional team that discreetly accommodates their varying needs in a pleasant environment that’s convenient and uncongested.”

Future growth at the airport will be supported by the $5 million state grant recently awarded to the airport from the $45 billion Rebuild Illinois capital infrastructure plan Gov. JB Pritzker signed into law in 2019.

The funding will cover the cost of building a Ground Engine Run-Up facility, which is a critical improvement that will benefit four aircraft maintenance providers operating at St. Louis Downtown Airport. This project will support more than 450 high-tech aerospace manufacturing jobs by improving production safety, reliability and efficiency, improving airport businesses and increasing global competitiveness for Southwestern Illinois and the State of Illinois. The project has been in the works for several years and construction is expected to begin later this year.

According to a study by the State of Illinois, St. Louis Downtown Airport contributed more than $422 million in economic impact for the region in 2019, including factors such as on-airport activity and visitor spending. The airport supports recreational, charter and business flying, as well as flight instruction from the Saint Louis University Parks College, the nation’s oldest flight school still in operation. Additional activities supported by the airport include government operations, military training, real estate tours, medical transport, aerospace technology research, and glider flying.

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