By Kathleen Swift

There have been positive changes happening at the Joplin Regional Airport. The airport has brought the convenience of air travel to the Four States, and along with that, it has had a positive economic impact on the area.

Steve Stockam, general manager at Joplin Regional Airport, is optimistic about the future of air travel in our region. “You can get anywhere you want to go on our daily flights to Dallas and Chicago. Those cities are major hubs, and you reach most any destination both domestically and internationally from Joplin using our flights.”

The recently added flights to Chicago have allowed Joplin Regional Airport to provide good connections and service with the northeastern states and East Coast. Stockam adds, “The Chicago connections allow passengers better access to those areas without having to go through Dallas. It also provides better synergy for American Airlines. If there is a big storm in Dallas, for instance, a customer could still get out by going through Chicago.”

One advantage Stockam points out is that the Joplin Regional Airport is conveniently located. It’s close by, and parking is free, which can be a major savings.

“People can save on the time and effort it might take to drive to another airport,” says Stockam. “We pride ourselves on our staff. Our staff is gracious, kind and helpful to our customers. And, the wait time in line for TSA screening is much shorter.”

Haley Reardon, a local airport patron, recalls her experience flying from the Joplin Regional Airport. “My recent experience with the Joplin Regional Airport was nothing short of fabulous! I was thrilled to find a convenient flight at the same price that Tulsa, Springfield and Northwest Arkansas offered. Taking the short 30-minute drive to Joplin from my home and free parking into consideration, I actually saved money flying out of Joplin. Plus, I’ve never encountered such pleasant TSA agents! They were all so kind, thorough and cheerful. Our regional airport is a hidden gem!”

Currently, Joplin Regional Airport has served over 10,000 customers a month for the last three months with flights to Dallas and Chicago. In addition to those who are flying out of Joplin, the airport hosts those who are meeting arrivals or saying goodbye to family and friends leaving on flights.

“If you account for people in the airport who are not taking flights, that equates to 15,000 to 20,000 people a month coming into the airport,” said Stockam. “We have hired more janitorial workers to help us keep our terminal clean. The Joplin City Council has also given approval for us to hire our own police force. It is a federal requirement that we have an officer on duty at the screening checkpoint, and in the past, we have had to pull Joplin police officers off of other duties to be at the airport. Working with the city council and American Airlines, we will be able to have an airport police force.”

Stockam says officers are required to be on site when flights arrive and depart. “We have three flights daily to Dallas and two flights daily to Chicago during the week. These are adjusted to meet customer demand in the summer with four daily flights to Dallas. In December, American Airlines began flying a larger plane that will seat 76 passengers. The aircraft is dual class, which means it will have a first-class section in addition to the business-class seats.”

Joplin Regional Airport currently adds approximately $21 million worth of economic impact to the area. “In a five-month period, after adding the Chicago flights, we added an additional $1 million worth of economic impact,” says Stockam. This comes in the form of hotel stays, restaurant visits, rental cars and other spending done by travelers.

“It’s not just our customers from the area using the Joplin Regional Airport,” says Stockam. “Other people are coming here for business and leisure. One of our goals is to increase our marketing of the airport for people wanting to come to Joplin. We want to build our Chicago and Dallas service and let people know that they can fly to Joplin directly from anywhere in the world.”