New Castle Airport gets federal upgrade as flights grow
NEW CASTLE – The Wilmington-New Castle Airport has been upgraded to a Primary Commercial Service Airport, entitling it to more federal funding, after Frontier Airlines surpassed 10,000 commercial passengers this year.
The upgrade, announced by the airport’s operator, the Delaware River and Bay Authority (DRBA), on Tuesday, will be effective for the federal Fiscal Year 2023, beginning in October 2022.
In the previous few years, the commercial airport was known as a General Aviation Reliever Airport under Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) criteria, meaning it saw fewer than 10,000 people board commercial flights there annually.
The new designation is solely due to the return of commercial passenger service via Frontier last winter. The budget airline flies several times a week from New Castle to Orlando, growing from 635 passengers in February to a high of 1,689 passengers in July. From Feb. 11 to the end of November, Frontier booked 10,992 passengers through New Castle, according to DRBA data.
Prior to Frontier’s return of service, Delaware was the only state in the nation to not have commercial air service of any kind.
“Wilmington – New Castle Airport is now one of only 385 airports nationwide – and the only such airport in Delaware – to be classified as a Primary CSA,” said Stephen D. Williams, deputy executive director and airport director of the DRBA, in a statement. “In addition to the boost in federal entitlement dollars, the primary CSA designation also has significance within the airline, cargo, and commercial airport communities. It further validates the airport’s regional recognition as a low-cost leader with growing preference as an alternative, ease of use secondary airport serving the Philadelphia Metro area. This milestone confirms that our customers really like our small airport, no hassle travel experience.”
The new federal designation bumps up the airport’s minimum annual federal entitlement to $1 million, a net increase of $850,000 over what it received under its prior classification. If the number of passengers served in New Castle continues to rise, the airport could see additional federal funding as well.
In addition to entitlement dollars, the airport coded as ILG also earns revenue from the FAA’s Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) program. Its current PFC program is authorized to collect up to $1.3 million until 2024, with each passenger boarding earning the airport a net of $4.39.