CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — As the number of people taking commercial flights plummeted at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, airlines discontinued some flights out of Corpus Christi International Airport.
In recent months, as more and more coronavirus restrictions were lifted, those flights started to return to CCIA.
The airport's Deputy Director of Aviation, Tyler Miller, says 88-percent of pre-pandemic flights are once again offered -- and that's not the only positive trend at the airport.
“We’re really excited that a lot of passengers are choosing to fly out of CCIA instead of driving to San Antonio or Houston," Miller said.
An airport's ability to convince residents to travel from their local airport is known as its market retention percentage, and Miller says CCIA's has gone up five-percent recently.
In hopes of seeing continued gains, the airport has more improvements in the works.
As of Tuesday, Corpus Christi International is no longer using a third-party company to run the airport's parking lots.
The airport itself is now in control of that large revenue stream allowing it to make changes, like installing pay-on-foot machines in parking lots and at baggage claim that allow travelers to pay for their parking before reaching the exit kiosk.
“It makes it easier and faster to get into and out of the terminal once you arrive back from your trip,” Miller said.
Another upcoming change is a relief for travelers like Corpus Christi resident Jason Kinsey who doesn't like the airport's policy when it comes to picking up someone who's flown into CCIA.
Cars can only stop at the curb under the airport's overhang for the length of time needed for a traveler and his or her bags to load into the car.
Kinsey says it frustrates him that there's nowhere to wait with your car until the person you're picking up exits the airport.
“Don’t make them circle around all the way out to the road and back,” he said.
Airport leaders have good news for Kinsey and others like him.
In the coming weeks they're creating a small, temporary cell phone lot in the long term parking lot near the exit kiosk.
You'll be able to park in one of seven parking spaces free of charge and wait for the traveler you're picking up to call you to let you know to drive to the terminal.
A bigger, permanent cell phone lot is also now in the airport's plans for the coming years.
Those changes, plus more and more people feeling safe enough to fly because of the prevalence of the COVID-19 vaccine, could mean continued gains for CCIA.
“I didn’t come last year obviously at the beginning of the pandemic," said traveler Sharon Smith from Indiana whose daughter lives in Flour Bluff. "I usually come every six months or so. So, I’m looking forward to coming back more often now.”