Airlines are taking a more proactive approach to rerouting flights ahead of predicted snowstorms, and cancellations in February may have contributed to the dip in departing traffic — even though snow didn't always materialize.
Both of the state's major commercial airports reported fewer outbound passengers in February compared with the same month last year. At Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City, departures decreased by 1.9 percent; Tulsa International Airport had a nearly 5 percent drop.
Karen Carney, a spokeswoman for Will Rogers World Airport, said predicted winter weather on Feb. 25 resulted in 23 flights being canceled. Airlines also had weather-related cancellations on Feb. 12 and Feb. 20. Halting flights ahead of predicted storms appears to be the new normal, she said.
“It comes from many years of learning the hard way. Even though it's inconvenient for travelers at the airport, it helps minimize the impact throughout their system,” she said.
As a result, fewer travelers are getting stranded at airports and aircraft are more often kept overnight in cities not affected by winter weather, meaning the planes can fly again the next day.
February also had one fewer day this year than in 2012, a leap year.
Diversions and cancellations are likely to continue at Tulsa International Airport, which is in the midst of a reconstruction project on its main runway, said Alexis Higgins, an airport spokeswoman. A couple of flights were diverted Sunday due to low cloud ceilings. The current phase of the runway project is expected to wrap up in late May or early June.
Tulsa International Airport, which has seen passenger loads slip in recent years, plans to announce a regional plan to attract new airlines and nonstop routes this week.
Lawton-Fort Sill Regional Airport
There were 3,615 departing passengers at Lawton-Fort Sill Regional Airport in February, a 5.6 percent decrease compared with the same month in 2012. Overall, outbound traffic is down 7.1 percent this year.