SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The Springfield-Branson National Airport celebrated a first Thursday in its history. The airport welcomed the 1 millionth passenger for 2018. This year is the first passenger count topped that milestone.
An American Airlines flight arrived around 9:45 a.m. The airport chose that flight to commemorate the event.
Since the airport won't know official numbers until sometime in mid-January, they asked the math department at Missouri State University to do a statistical forecast for them. They estimated this morning.
Fire trucks sprayed water over the plane, and as passengers entered, they received balloons and a pin with flamingo wings that says "Thanks a million."
The airport hosted a short celebration in the lobby with the passengers and many area leaders. We caught up with a couple of the people on the millionth passenger plane, one being a comedian doing a show at the Gillioz Thursday night and another who also happened to be on the first plane out of this terminal 10 years ago.
"What are the chances? Slim to none, and I still got another 17 years of this before I can retire," said Stanley Foster.
"It's awesome to be the one millionth passenger," said comedian Michael Jr. "I really worked hard to get this position. Like I had to go on Expedia, and I had to click and I kind of sprained my finger when I did it."
In the last five years, passenger numbers at the airport have grown 40 percent, and with that growth, they're planning for the future. Airport board chairman Jim Anderson says, "Nothing's broken. Things are going very very well. But in many ways, success can breed complacency, and we want to make sure that we are not complacent."
A task force has recommended the airport move from a Springfield city department to a regional airport authority. It could mean quicker decisions when it comes to things like grant funding.
The airport could also look at non-traditional revenue sources such as an airport hotel and restaurants, even an airline maintenance facility.
"Really, being a department of the city, that's very limited and what you can do," Anderson says.
As far as attracting major airlines, Anderson believes milestones like today's will only help. "I think it gives us the opportunity to further market this airport to new carriers, as well as existing carriers, perhaps adding routes or perhaps adding larger equipment," Anderson says.
Springfield city leaders will be the ones to make the final decision as to whether the airport becomes a standalone Regional Airport Authority. The timeline is not clear.