A substantial increase of people flew from the Casper-Natrona County International Airport in July compared to a year ago, its director said Wednesday.

What's driving that increase is mostly unknown, Glenn Januska said.

"While we started off the year a bit slower, these last three months have shown some very strong passenger increases," he said.

"We are hoping that this is a continued sign of the improved economy," Januska added.

In July, 9,468 passengers got on aircraft, a 17.2% increase compared to the same month a year ago, he said.

That number is slightly below the enplanements in 2017, and about 500 fewer than in 2015.

So far this year, total enplanements are up 10.6% over the same time in 2018.

"That certainly shows a strong demand," Januska said.

"We see that in all our activity levels," he said. "We see that in passenger enplanements; we see that in rental car revenue; we see that in parking revenue; we see that in our activity -- the number of aircraft flying in and out of the airport; the amount of cargo that goes through the airport."

The numbers are simple.

The reasons why are not, and that gives Januska some pause because he and airport officials don't know the purposes for people's trips.

"We're probably cautiously optimistic going forward, not having a real good handle on what's driving that is something that's making us saying, 'hey, we shouldn't be necessarily planning on that type of an increase going forward until we have a better handle on what's driving those numbers.'"

The increase could be a result of people having more disposable income for leisure trips and/or business from wind energy development near Glenrock and Douglas, he said.

However, business travelers are less influenced by fare prices than leisure flyers, he said.

The airport does not survey people boarding or getting off airplanes to determine why they're flying, Januska said.

However, it does survey the license plates on vehicles in the parking lot to see the counties where people are from, he said.

Speaking of the parking lot, the long-awaited reconstruction of the crumbling asphalt expanse is beginning with the relocation of the rental cars, Januska said.

However, that will minimally affect travelers. The entrance to the main lot will remain the same, and signs and cones will direct motorists to where they should park, he said.

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The Casper-Natrona County International Airport is owned by Natrona County, and overseen by a board of trustees. The county does not subsidize it.