DSM Airport’s Record Number of Passengers an Indicator of Iowa’s Booming Economy

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  The Des Moines International Airport saw a record number of people last month. More than 251,000 passengers flew in June, that is the highest number of monthly passengers in the airport’s history. It is a 5.7% increase from June 2017.

This is partly due to two airlines starting daily nonstop flights to different locations, bringing more people in and out each day.

“American Airlines started in May going to Philadelphia twice a day, so that’s a new destination, new flights, and Frontier in June started going to San Francisco… both of those help bump us into this new record in June,” Des Moines International Airport Executive Director Kevin Foley said.

Foley said another reason for the increase in passengers is because of how many events, conventions, and conferences bring thousands of people to Iowa and millions of dollars to the economy.

“An airport’s an economic tool and it supports the economy that’s all we are, but it allows those kinds of activities to be successful. If we didn’t have good transportation in and out of Iowa, you couldn’t promote a 330-bed hotel and an event center,” Foley said.

Foley said this continued increase in passengers reinforces the need for need for a bigger terminal. The airport plans to begin construction on a new terminal in 2026 and complete construction in 2028. They plan on having 14 gates for a new terminal and eventually going up to 18 gates by 2040 if this growth continues.

"Increased aviation is directly tied to Iowa’s booming economy," Foley said.

He said when a recession hits they see passenger numbers drop off but when that recession recovers, passenger numbers tend to blow right past the previous peak.

“That concerns the airport authority is that if we balloon beyond our current peaks, where we are hitting them kind of gradually. Every year we are seeing a up to a five percent increase but if we all of a sudden see 8 to 9 percent increases in any given year, I’m not sure if this facility will accommodate that,” Foley said.

Funding for this new terminal project is still a bit of an issue. Foley said there is some movement in congress to raise passenger facility charges, which right now is nationally capped at $4.50, to $8.50. He said this would help fund projects, like the one here in Des Moines, in airports around the country.