What. A. Year. 2021 — our 60th anniversary year — was marked with challenges, uncertainties, huge successes, support from our region, and big dreams for the future. Yes, the pandemic was a central part of all our lives throughout 2021, yet there were many other highlights that lifted our spirits, evoked hope for the future, and shined a spotlight on the resilience of the travel industry fueled by our human need for meaningful connection.
We all learned how to travel differently, with a continued focus on health and safety. And with masks, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, vaccines and COVID tests in order, you returned to the skies. In fact, by the end of 2021, passenger numbers were exceeding pre-pandemic levels — and 2022 looks promising. Extraordinary.
Each year, we reflect on key accomplishments at the airport — an important exercise. When AVL grows and succeeds, it is a reflection of our vibrant and thriving region, and 2021 — even with all of its challenges — was a historic 60th anniversary year for us. We have much to celebrate, and even more to anticipate.
Thank you for your interest and for supporting your local airport. Here’s to safe and healthy travels in 2022!
BILLIONS GENERATED FOR OUR REGION’S ECONOMY
In early 2021, the North Carolina Division of Aviation released its report titled “North Carolina — The State of Aviation.” In this report, Asheville Regional Airport’s economic impact to our region was quantified (based on 2019 numbers).
- Nearly $2 Billion in economic impact to the region
- 12.5K local jobs | $400+ Million contributed to personal income
- $65 Million contributed to state and local taxes
PASSENGERS CHOSE AVL
2021 was a year of recovery. Once vaccines became widely available, passenger numbers began to soar, and AVL ended its year nearly recovered to pre-pandemic levels.
- Monthly passenger numbers compared to 2019 (pre-pandemic) – show sharp increases from May – December
- Record summer growth above June - August 2019
- Record July and best month in AVL’s history
OUR TEAM STOOD STRONG
AVL is proud that even during these uncertain times, we kept all positions in place at the airport —there were no layoffs.
In fact, the airport board and senior staff recognized the challenging times and implemented retention bonuses for all employees. The dedicated airport team worked hard to keep the airport operating, growing and moving forward — and we celebrate our tremendous staff for their hard work in 2021.
TWO NEW AIRLINES ANNOUNCED
We were thrilled to learn that two new airlines would join the AVL team:
Early in the year, JetBlue Airlines announced their intention to begin service to Boston, Massachusetts in summer 2022. Then in October 2021, Sun Country Airlines began service to Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota.
SIX AIRLINES | 25 NONSTOP DESTINATIONS (A RECORD!)
Now served by Allegiant, American, Delta, JetBlue, Sun Country and United, AVL is better connected than ever before.
Ending the year with the highest number of nonstop destinations in the airport’s history (25), including frequent daily flights to major hubs, passengers can travel to and from AVL to just about anywhere in the world.
- New routes added in 2021
- Allegiant: Las Vegas, Nevada (March 2021); Destin, Florida (May 2021); Key West, Florida and Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota (October 2021)
- American: Boston, Massachusetts, Chicago, Illinois and Washington, D.C. (June 2021)
- Sun Country: Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota (October 2021)
- Routes reinstated or increased in 2021
- American: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and New York City, New York
- Delta: New York City, New York
The Federal Aviation Administration requires airports to operate as self-sufficiently as possible.
That means leveraging land and other assets to generate revenue for the airport, both for aeronautical and non-aeronautical use. Significant business development efforts happened in 2021 which will continue to support the long-term financial stability of our region’s airport.
LAND DEVELOPMENT PLAN
The airport’s available land was surveyed, and a strategic land development plan was created that outlined space available, most appropriate land uses for each parcel and helped envision a strategic direction for the future development of airport property.
A major accomplishment in 2020 was the purchase of Broadmoor Golf Links, located in Henderson County and adjacent to the airport’s Runway Protection Zone at the south end of the airfield.
In 2021, the airport entered into a ground lease agreement with DreamCatcher Broadmoor, LLC, for the development, management and operation of a commercial hotel with conference center and the 18-hole golf course. Coming next will be a four-diamond hotel and conference center, the first of its kind in Henderson County. The purchase was strategic, allowing for future nonaeronautical revenue diversification, as well as upholding the FAA’s requirement that airports promote compatible land use in areas near the airport.
MORE PARKING FOR CARS AND PLANES
With significant growth comes more people … and more cars … and more AIRPLANES.
In 2021, we constructed and opened a new remote shuttle lot for passenger use, located directly across Hwy 280/Airport Road and the airport’s main entrance. This new lot added about 300 additional parking spaces, bringing the total available in all lots to nearly 2,500.
SOUTH APRON EXPANSION
2021 was also a year of construction of a new area for aircraft parking.
We have been bursting at the seams on our airfield, especially in the evening when more and more planes are parked at the airport overnight. An expansion project was underway all year to create more aircraft parking space south of the terminal and should be ready for use in early 2022. We will be able to accommodate up to three additional aircraft, depending upon size.
When you’re 60 years old, some of your infrastructure may need some long-overdue attention.
We upgraded some of our original water and sewer systems, preparing for more modernization and expansion coming soon.
2021 WAS A YEAR OF PLANNING AND DESIGN
The airport spent the year continuing a 2+ year design project that will culminate in plans for a new, modernized airport that will meet our region’s needs for decades to come. The final design documents will be complete in early 2022, and the airport is targeting construction to begin in late 2022.
NEW FAA CONTROL TOWER DESIGN
In order to move forward with the new terminal project, the existing FAA Control Tower (which is a part of the current airport terminal) will eventually be demolished. A new free-standing FAA control tower will be constructed within the next few years, and the design process was in full swing in 2021, in collaboration with the FAA.
MASTER PLAN PROCESS KICKED OFF IN LATE 2021
CELEBRATING 60 YEARS BY BRINGING BACK OUR RUNWAY 5K
We were excited to bring back our popular Runway 5K in 2021, in celebration of our 60th anniversary.
With more than 1,000 racers and hundreds more spectators, the day was spectacular and offered a memorable experience for many of our friends, neighbors and customers.
All proceeds benefited two local aviation scholarship funds: the AB-Tech Aviation Fund and the Western North Carolina Pilots Association Educational Foundation. More than $15,000 was raised to support local aviation education, in partnership with these sponsors:
Avcon, Gresham Smith, Hensel Phelps, Hunter Subaru, RS&H, Star 104.3, CHA, Vannoy Construction, McGriff, Parrish & Partners.
A FOCUS ON PASSENGERS THROUGH COMMUNITY
AVL WELCOME CREW
We were pleased to pilot a new volunteer program in 2021 – we call it the AVL Welcome Crew. This is an opportunity for people on the Autism spectrum to volunteer their time at the airport, with their caregiver, to welcome travelers to the airport and direct them to baggage claim. The program began at the suggestion of one family who was looking for a meaningful volunteer job for their autistic loved one, and we hope to expand this program in 2022.
ART & MUSIC RETURNED
What is western North Carolina without art and music? We were pleased to reinstate local art in our gallery, as well as local instrumentalists performing in the terminal again this year.
WE MISSED OUR VOLUNTEERS, AND WERE GLAD TO WELCOME THEM BACK MID-YEAR
Passengers once again had the pleasure of interacting with our friendly volunteer ambassadors and Paws for Passengers “ambassadogs” this year. The pandemic required many of our community-based programs to be paused, and it was a great feeling to begin to welcome these special team members back to the airport in the second half of the year.
A NOTE ABOUT COVID-19 AND RECOVERY
In a year-end review, we must make note of the COVID-19 pandemic and its ever-present impact on the airport.
Our dedicated team towed the line, and continued to implement stringent health and safety protocols at the airport. Travelers returned in larger numbers beginning in May 2021, and we experienced some of our busiest travel months in the history of AVL through the end of the year.
AVL was the first airport in North Carolina to achieve a global health accreditation from Airports Council International. We remain committed to providing a safe and healthy travel experience for our travelers, and a responsible work environment for our team.
The western North Carolina community has also been responsive and compliant while at the airport — most travelers at AVL have followed the masking requirements, and have been respectful and patient during their travels. We are proud to be a part of this special community.
SENIOR TEAM HIGHLIGHTS
Michael Reisman, A.A.E.
DEPUTY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
American Association of Airport Executives Board
John Coon, A.A.E.
DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS + MAINTENANCE
North Carolina Airports Association Board
Tina Kinsey, A.A.E.
DIRECTOR OF MARKETING PR + AIR SERVICE DEVELOPMENT
Four Seasons Hospice Board, Hendersonville, N.C.
Air Service Committee, American Association of Airport Executives
Samuel Sales, A.M.F.
PUBLIC SAFETY CHIEF
Blue Ridge Honor Flight Board
PUBLIC SAFETY OFFICERS ACHIEVING ADVANCED LEO CERTIFICATION
Lieutenant Keith Duffie
Public Safety Officer Dustin Irvin
GREATER ASHEVILLE REGIONAL AIRPORT AUTHORITY BOARD | 2021
City of Asheville
George Erwin, Jr.
Susan Russo Klein
City of Asheville
Carl H. Ricker, Jr.