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February passenger traffic at Gainesville Regional Airport the strongest since 2020

Correction appended: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the nature of the upcoming taxiway construction at the airport. It is not a runway expansion but rather a series of improvements to comply with the latest Federal Aviation Authority standards. We regret the error.

Passenger numbers at the Gainesville-Alachua County Regional Airport peaked in February for the first time since 2020, announced Gainesville Regional Airport CEO Allan Penksa at the Gainesville-Alachua County Regional Airport Authority Board meeting Thursday.

Over 20,000 people boarded flights in February on Delta, American Airlines and Silver Airways to travel to destinations that ranged from Miami to Dallas-Fort Worth.

The number of February passengers this year also increased by 12.29% compared with the number of passengers for the same period in 2023. About 39,000 people traveled through the airport in February 2023. In February of this year, 44,000 people flew in and out of Gainesville.

The airport authority gave an update during the meeting on improvements to the taxiways and general aviation apron at the airport. By the end of the improvement process, the taxiways and general aviation apron will abide by the latest updates to Federal Aviation Administration standards.

Gainesville Regional Airport will close the runway at night for construction between April 11 and April 13, Penksa said.

The taxiway improvement project was delayed due to the recent increased rain in Alachua County, Penksa said. The weather prevented compacting of the sub-base material, but in the coming days, the taxiway construction team will be able to remove wet material and replace it with dry soil and limestone gravel so paving can begin.

Penksa said the work will not impact flights arriving or departing from the airport and will occur after the last commercial flight of the day.

Fred Posner, one of the nine authority board members, raised the issue of airport food and snack prices, specifically the price of gummy worms. He said he was concerned about the high prices Tailwind Hospitality Inc.’s vending services charge consumers.

“The pricing that this airport has with our vendors is somewhat out of line with other airports,” Posner said.

Tailwind’s Gainesville branch provides food services that range from full restaurant fare to snacks before and after the TSA checkpoint. The company signed a contract with the airport regarding the pricing of services which Posner referenced in his discussion.

“After COVID and minimum wage going up, prices went up too,” Penksa said. “We can certainly bring it up and look at the existing contract.”

Penksa also said the board would conduct a survey of the company and talk to the vendor about any potential changes.

Adrian Hayes-Santos, a newly appointed board member, insisted that the airport should aim to compete with food and snack prices at the Orlando Airport.

“Our prices are expensive for what you get,” he said.

Hayes-Santos was appointed by the Gainesville City Commission Thursday to fill Curtis Reynolds’ position on the board. Reynolds, who also served as the vice president of business operations at the University of Florida, resigned after joining Baylor University as its chief financial officer.

On Friday, a Tailwinds spokesperson responded to the concerns raised at Thursday's meeting.

"We work with the constraints that we are given in pricing and there are rules and regulations as to what we can do for our pricing," said Nancy Rose, the vice president of human resources, retail and hospitality at Tailwinds.

To conclude the meeting, Zach Lukowski, the president of the University Air Center, announced the theme for Gainesville’s 2025 Gator Fly-In and Armed Services Appreciation Day: space.

Debbie Frederick, the chief operating officer of the University Air Center, said she expected people of all ages to show up based on the success of this year’s Gator Fly-In, which was held March 23.

The event was an opportunity for young adults to consider careers outside of college ranging from flying planes to working in maintenance, she said.

Over 6,000 people attended the event which honored Commander Lt. Col. Richard “Spad” McSpadden, who served in the U.S. Air Force. McSpadden died in October in an aircraft accident near Lake Placid, New York.

Lukowski said he would reach out to NASA to try to obtain space-related objects and invite astronauts to visit during the event tentatively scheduled for March 22, 2025.

“We’re still thinking about how to frame that,” he said.

Liana is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing