BCTDA gets overview of AVL airport’s growth, construction

GET ON BOARD: Asheville Regional Airport's Tina Kinsey asks for a show of hands from recent flyers at the June 26 meeting of the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority. Photo by Caleb Johnson

“Before we get started, I just want to see by show of hands how many of you have flown in the last three weeks?” Tina Kinsey, Asheville Regional Airport vice president of marketing, public relations and air service asked at the June 26 meeting of the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority (BCTDA).

Most of the hands that shot up belonged to BCTDA board members, but the story Kinsey told of the airport’s explosive growth indicated that the rest of the infrequently flying crowd in the Explore Asheville meeting room was not representative.

Asheville Regional Airport is one of the fastest-growing airports in the country, and the third-busiest in North Carolina after Charlotte and Raleigh, Tinsley said. In 2023, a record 2.25 million passengers were served. That breaks down to 4,000 daily passengers outbound on 36 daily flights, each carrying an average of 110 people headed to 34 destinations.

“We are … served by six airlines, Allegiant, American, Delta, JetBlue, Sun Country and United,” Kinsey said.

The demand comes from  Asheville’s strong leisure market with 70% of inbound travelers flying in for leisure activities and 30% on business, she said

Vic Isley, BCTDA president and CEO of Explore Asheville, noted that while the vast majority of visitors to Asheville travel by car, air travelers stay longer and spend more in the community.

AVL Forward, the airport’s construction and design initiative, is expanding the airport from seven gates to 12 with a new baggage claim, two concourses, a concession plaza and windows throughout the terminal to make the airport brighter, Kinsey said.

Phase one in remaking the 62-year-old airport began in August, funded by $400 million in federal and state grants, airport revenue bonds and airport operating revenue.

Phase two, targeted for completion in 2027, includes a south concourse, a new lobby, a permanent Transportation Security Administration checkpoint, a second-level concessions plaza and an expansion of the baggage area, Kinsey said.

“Before we started demolition on the existing terminal, we had 113,000 square feet of terminal space,” said Lew Bleiweis, president and CEO of the Greater Asheville Regional Airport Authority. “The new terminal will be 275,000 square feet. The first seven gates that open next year will be just around 100,000 square feet. Just the seven gates alone is the equivalent to almost the whole terminal that was existing before construction.”

FY 2025 budget adopted

BCTDA also held a public hearing on its $27.3 million fiscal year 2025 budget, a decrease from last year’s $27.6 million budget. Total marketing spending in the budget will shrink from $20 million in fiscal year 2024 to $19.4 million in FY 2025. Net media spending for FY 2025 will be $13.8 million, an 11% drop from $15.5 million the year before. The proposed budget raises BCTDA salaries and benefits from $4.1 million in FY 2024 to $4.4 million in FY 2025, representing a 7.3% increase.

BCTDA spokesperson Ashley Greenstein told Mountain Xpress that the increase will go toward an added position in business development, which will increase group and event bookings, payments to team members to comply with new Department of Labor overtime exemptions and a 5% pool for cost-of-living or merit raises for remaining employees.

No one signed up for public comments. Since board member Kathleen Mosher was absent, all eight members of the board present voted in favor of adopting the FY 2025 budget.



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About Patrick Moran
As Mountain Xpress' City Reporter, I'm fascinated with how Asheville and its people work. Previously, I spent 25 years in Charlotte, working for local papers Creative Loafing Charlotte and Queen City Nerve. In that time I won three North Carolina Press Association Awards and an Emmy. Prior to that, I wrote and produced independent feature films in Orlando, Florida. Follow me @patmoran77

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