A former Watertown woman drew the lucky boarding pass Sunday at Watertown Regional Airport and was honored as the 10,000th passenger to fly out of the city during 2017. It's a major achievement for Watertown Regional Airport because it means a $1 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration for airport improvements.
The passenger, Christine Stone of Colorado Springs, Colo., was the center of attention Sunday before her flight left. She found herself surrounded by city officials, airline personnel and media members. There was cake and champagne for everyone.
And there were plenty of congratulatory remarks tossed around: to the city council for pushing the year-end promotion to boost passenger numbers, to Glacial Lakes Energy and the Chamber of Commerce for jumping on board, to airport officials and ADI for providing such improved service.
But you know who deserves most of the credit for Watertown's commercial airline resurrection?
It's the passengers. All 10,000 of them (and counting.)
There was a lot of talk Sunday about how vital reliable air service is to the local business community. We don't disagree. But without the local travelers choosing to fly out of Watertown, there would have been no celebration on Sunday.
Mickey Bowman, chief operating officer of ADI, Inc., told the Public Opinion he didn't expect Watertown's numbers to reach these levels so quickly. A long stretch of unreliable service, followed by a long stretch of no service, had conditioned people to fly out of Sioux Falls, Fargo, Minneapolis or some other larger airport. Once people get used to doing something a certain way, it is difficult to get them to change, Bowman said.
He thought it would take another year before the city reached the coveted 10,000 passenger mark.
But Watertown residents didn't wait. ADI's numbers were good from the very beginning and kept getting better. Of course, the company's reliable service was a big factor, but so was the willingness of the people of Watertown to give the new airline a chance.
That willingness has the future of Watertown Regional Airport looking pretty good. High on the city's "wish list" for the airport is a new terminal building, one which would create a strong, positive impression of the city for travelers landing here and make flying out of Watertown even more enjoyable.
We see no reason why commercial air service can't continue to improve and become even more popular in Watertown. The city's Essential Air Service contract is up for bids again in the near future, and given the success ADI has had, it's a good bet more airlines will be lining up to serve Watertown Regional Airport. And the more companies bidding, the better the deal for Watertown and for the traveling public.
We all know Watertown is a great place to live, work and play. It's good to know it has also become a good place to fly into and out of.
Congratulations to everybody involved.