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Appleton International Airport on pace for a record year

The airport is now third in state in passenger travel behind Milwaukee and Madison

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August 10, 2023

APPLETON – Fueled by new flight offerings, the continued increase of post-COVID-19 travel and a $65-million expansion project, the Appleton International Airport (ATW) is set to have its busiest year on record in 2023.

And the airport – which is the Badger State’s third-busiest airport behind Milwaukee and Madison – shows no signs of slowing down.

“More and more passengers are recognizing how much faster, easier and more convenient it is to fly out of ATW than choosing to drive down the road to Milwaukee or Madison,” Abe Weber, airport director, said. “We’ve seen our passengers increase over the last couple of years, but we’re on pace this year to see more than 930,000 arriving and departing travelers by the end of 2023.”

Weber said this is a nearly 100,000 increase to what ATW saw in 2022 (846,000 passengers).

“If our projections are correct, we’ll jump about 14% this year,” he said. “We are continuing to increase our numbers after the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In addition to the convenience of ATW attributing to the increase, Weber said the airport’s $65 million in upgrades and expansion projects are also helping.

“We’ve had a big focus on customer experience, whether that be the parking lot or the amenities we offer at our concessions inside the terminal building,” he said. “The improvements have helped passengers recognize it’s an easier travel experience through Appleton Airport.”

Weber said the airport is currently working on a concourse expansion.

“It will include additional (passenger) hold room, additional gate space and improve the restaurant and gift shop,” he said. “On the exterior, it’s going to add gate space for larger and more aircraft to park in and around the terminal building – that will help our current and future growth.”

More flights
The increased number of passengers, Weber said, has sparked an increase in flight options as well. 

ATW added a non-stop flight between Appleton and Portland International Airport in Oregon through Allegiant Air this summer – one Weber said has shown good results.

“The (Portland) flights are going well,” he said. “We originally announced it would go from June 15 to August 13 – a two-month seasonal test period – but about a week after we announced, based on the number of bookings coming out of Northeast Wisconsin, Allegiant extended the schedule through September. It gives us another month of activity, which is great to see.”

Portland is Allegiant’s 11th city (Oregon being the seventh state) destination the airline flies to out of Appleton.

The Appleton International Airport is the state’s third-busiest airport behind Milwaukee and Madison. Photo Courtesy of Appleton International Airport
“I think Portland will come back next summer, based on what we’re seeing this year,” Weber said.

Allegiant also has non-stop flights to Las Vegas, Denver, Phoenix/Mesa, Nashville, Savannah/Hilton Head, Orlando/Sanford, Sarasota/Bradenton, Tampa/St. Petersburg, Ft. Lauderdale/Miami and Fort Myers/Punta Gorda.

According to airport passenger statistics on the ATW website (, all of the airport’s commercial flights saw an increase in passengers during the last year, but Allegiant’s increased the most at almost 32%.

Weber said adding new non-stop flights is always an option.

“When we talk to our air carriers, we first talk about increasing the size of the aircraft or increasing the number of flights to our current hubs,” he said. “Shortly thereafter, if we are successful and the planes are full, it allows us to go back to the carriers and say, ‘Clearly, our community supports you, so we’d like you to consider adding this flight.’”

Though ATW is the third-busiest airport in the state, Weber said the airport “has a ways to go to catch up.”

“Using our 2022 numbers, we were still about a million passengers behind Madison (the second-largest in the state),” he said. “It doesn’t hurt to say we want to grow and get to that point.”

Decrease in cargo traffic
In contrast to the increase in passenger travel, Weber said the airport has seen a decrease in cargo traffic by almost 17%.

“I’ve reached out to our cargo carriers and asked them what they think the reason is – I don’t personally know,” Weber said.

“The response I’ve received is they think it’s in response to it coming down now after the boom of COVID – we’re just re-setting ourselves a bit.”

In the digital age we live in, Weber said fewer people are sending mail the old-fashioned way.

“Obviously, there’s a lot more email now and things like that,” he said. “So, many things have gone electronic, so there’s less cargo freight from that perspective as well.”

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