People are ready to travel after more than a year of COVID-19 restrictions and American Airlines is responding to increased demand at Stillwater Regional Airport by bringing back a second daily flight.

It’s something of a triumph considering Stillwater came close to losing air service completely in October, Airport Director Paul Priegel said.

American Airlines announced in August that it would be dropping service to 15 small cities, including Stillwater, due to lack of demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the airline revised that decision in September, opting to keep service to Stillwater and three other cities on the list.

Priegel said the City of Stillwater showed its commitment to keeping commercial air service and American Airlines returned that commitment by keeping one flight a day and pledging to add more flights as demand recovered.

Although the City of Stillwater and Oklahoma State University had each pledged up to $1.5 million in monthly guarantees to ensure flights from Stillwater were profitable during the first two years of operation, Priegel said no subsidy was requested last year to keep the service.

Increasing demand has prompted the return of a second, mid-day flight now that the single daily flight has reached 75-80% of capacity.

Marketing has been hard during the pandemic but the City has hired an analyst who Priegel said monitors passenger numbers and trends to get ahead of any issues,

Until the pandemic struck, Stillwater’s air service had seen consistent growth with a big jump between 2018 and 2019. A third daily flight had been added both those years during the peak summer travel season.

Maintaining an early morning flight from Stillwater to DFW and a late night incoming flight that arrives just before midnight has helped travelers make their mid-day and evening connections, Priegel said. The second flight will arrive at 2 p.m. and depart at 2:30 p.m.

SWO is refreshed and ready to welcome passengers.

Airport staff used their downtime during the pandemic to make repairs and give the terminal a coat of fresh paint.

An indoor baggage return has also been added.

Now SWO is ready to reintroduce Stillwater’s air service to people who haven’t thought about traveling for a while.

“We can connect you almost anywhere you want to go,” Priegel said.

Twitter: @mcharlesNP