Created: 03/04/2014 6:26 PM KAALtv.com
By: Sean Boswell
(ABC 6 NEWS) -- Minnesota's regional airports are seeing signs of resurgence, and for the first time in years, passenger traffic has increased in Rochester.
"I just love it!" said Petelo Siliako.
Siliako says convenience is the biggest reason he flies out of Rochester International Airport.
"I can easily have access from home to here. It's about 20 minutes," said Siliako.
The airport, known as RST, saw a 4% spike in passenger traffic in 2013, its first increase in more than five years.
"We’ve seen the schedules stabilize with American and Delta, that's good news, we also saw Legion come back into the market with Phoenix. Phoenix is a phenomenal market for Southeast Minnesota and a popular destination particularly when you're in the middle of a polar vortex," said RST Executive Director Marty Lenss.
Flights from the airport go only to Minneapolis and Chicago, and twice a week to Mesa, AZ. Lenss says he sees potential to increase what now stands at nine flights per day. He says it's due, in part, to growing population and economic opportunities.
"What's your connectivity to the national and international marketplace, not just for people, but also for products, and so there's a direct relationship between air service and economic development opportunities within the community," said Lenss.
While passenger traffic is growing, it's still easy for Siliako to avoid the crowd at RST.
"There are only a few people around, you can easily get to check in, also through security," said Siliako.
Siliako says that’s what keeps him coming back.
According to the Star Tribune, a recent study showed only 12% of the 2,400 Southern Minnesotans who fly daily use RST rather than driving up to the Twin Cities. Those are numbers the airport hopes to improve.