As the major Connecticut airport nearest to Fairfield County, Bradley International is continuing to show an impressive rate of growth, as well as recognition as one of the nation’s airports to watch, according to airport officials.Last October, Conde Nast Traveler ranked the Windsor Locks facility as the fifth-best airport in the U.S. based on a reader survey that rated 195 airports across the country.
“Customers praise its convenient on-site parking, plentiful charging stations and free Wi-Fi, decent restaurant options and overall relaxed atmosphere — making this mid-sized facility an attractive alternative to flying out of New York’s and Boston’s monster hubs,” the magazine said.
It should be noted, however, that last September the J.D. Power 2017 North American airport survey ranked Bradley the lowest of medium-size U.S. airports: it scored 742 out of a possible 1,000 points, while first-place Sacramento International Airport in California totaled 810 points.
In June, credit rating agency S&P Global Ratings raised Bradley’s rating on its general airport revenue refunding bonds from “A” to “A+”, with a stable outlook.
“We’re pleased that the agency shares our confidence in Bradley International Airport’s fiscally responsible management team and the airport’s continued success,” said Charles R. Gray, chairman of the board of directors of the Connecticut Airport Authority (CAA), which owns and operates the facility.
“We’re proud to have achieved this key rating,” CAA Executive Director Kevin A. Dillon told the Business Journal. “It is truly a reflection of our strategic governance and financial management practices and it sends a strong message that we’re a good airport to do business with.”
Such news is reflected in Bradley’s ridership, Dillon said. In February the airport reported that passenger ridership was up 6.2 percent to 6.43 million passengers in 2017. While data for the first six months of this year was not yet available, Dillon said that through April ridership was up 4.1 percent year over year.
“We anticipate that we will be up in May as well year over year,” he said. “Later this summer, in August, we look forward to the launch of the new nonstop flight to St. Louis, which we also anticipate will have a positive impact on the ridership.”
Bradley’s profile was raised considerably by the announcement in 2016 that Aer Lingus had begun year-round direct service to Dublin, with travelers able to connect in the Irish capital to more than 25 United Kingdom and European airports.
“Aer Lingus’ performance is meeting expectations and we continue to receive positive feedback from passengers about the connectivity and convenience of the flight,” Dillon said.
However, in February it was reported that Aer Lingus missed its revenue goal during its first full year of Bradley-to-Dublin service, resulting in the payment of a $4.5 million subsidy from Connecticut as part of the $13 million incentive deal signed by the state and the airline.
Another setback was incurred earlier this year when Norwegian Air announced it would shut down its Bradley service after only nine months; its last flights between Bradley and Edinburgh Airport in Scotland were on March 24.
In a statement, Norwegian said it blamed not Bradley but the Scottish government’s decision against lowering air travel taxes for its move. “We are urging the Scottish government to quickly resurrect plans for a reduction in air passenger taxes, which would reopen the door for more flights and lower fares for American passengers,” it said.
Asked whether another carrier like Norwegian or Aer Lingus could join Bradley in the short term, Dillon would only say, “Enhancing our route network is a top priority and we’re always in discussions with domestic and international carriers about the addition of new nonstops.”
Meanwhile, the CAA began what it calls “the reconstruction and realignment” of the main airport entrance roadway at Route 20 and Schoephoester Road in June 2017.
That work involves the realignment of Schoephoester Road along with a portion of the airport’s lower roadway system, as well as the construction of a roundabout, which ultimately will result in a new entrance to the airport from Route 20 and open up a 19-acre site for the future development of Bradley’s ground transportation center. The $11 million entrance will be completed by the fall, Dillon said, calling the roundabout “an effective tool to reducing vehicle speeds while maintaining high levels of traffic.”
The new ground transportation center is budgeted at $220 million. “We’re on track to have the construction start in 2019 and it should be completed at the end of 2021,” Dillon said.