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Toledo Express rated among fastest-growing

Toledo Express Airport officials have heard it before and now they're hearing it again: a national trade journal says Express is among the nation's fastest-growing airports.

Airports: USA predicted in its annual issue that Toledo Express will have a 45 per cent increase in passengers from 2000 to 2005, becoming the country's 11th-fastest-growing airport.

That joins lofty predictions by airport officials and recently released statistics showing a turnaround at Toledo Express, which ended the 1990s as the least used and slowest-growing among eight comparable airports.

Brian Schwartz, spokesman for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, which runs the airport, said of the latest forecast,

“There's no guarantees, but the port authority certainly believes this is reflective of a long-term growth period for the airport.”

In 1997, with Toledo Express having a record year for passenger traffic, the same journal ranked the airport among the five fastest-growing in the country. The next year, two airlines pulled out of Toledo, fares skyrocketed, and the airport lost a quarter of its passengers.

Airports: USA is published by The Boyd Group/ASRC Inc., based in suburban Denver. Besides publishing the journal, the company has done consulting work for various airports, including Toledo Express.

A representative from the firm did not return phone calls to The Blade this week.

Toledo's recent success - and its success in 1997 - has been attributed to AirTran Airways, a

That prompted other airlines to lower fares, and many area fliers are now opting for the Toledo Express over Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

Last month's passenger load increased 39 per cent compared with that of October, 1999. The airport's parking lot became so full last month that travelers parked their cars on grass while airport officials rushed to expand the lot.

Toledo Express last enjoyed such fare wars and full lots in 1997, when

Delta then pulled out of the airport, leaving no service to Atlanta for a year.

The airport ended 1999 just shy of 500,000 passengers and was on track to end 2000 with the same number until AirTran's return. Now it's on pace to meet its goal 2001 goal of 700,000 passengers - 40 per cent more than 1999 figures.

Airport officials have predicted that the latest trend will last because a recent terminal expansion offers more room for growth.

They also cite travelers' growing frustration with Detroit Metro, which is also predicted to have strong growth, as well as the emergence of smooth riding small jets that have replaced bouncy, noisy propeller planes for markets like Toledo.

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