After experiencing a drop in the last three years, Lafayette Regional Airport increased its passenger counts in 2018 by 9 percent, airport officials said Thursday.

The airport reported 451,543 passengers either boarding a flight or flying into Lafayette, up from the 411,818 in 2017 and 426,510 in 2016. It had 226,803 arriving passengers, up from 206,100 in 2017 and 213,024 in 2016, and 224,740 departing passengers, up from 205,718 a year ago and 213,486 from two years ago. 

The addition of 39,725 people departing and arriving in 2018 was like adding another month of passengers flying in or out of Lafayette, director Steve Picou said. 

It's the first year that passenger counts rose since 2014, when the airport reported 501,101 total passengers. 

Airlines' load factors, which is the percentage of seats on an airline occupied by passengers, showed a major increase in 2018 over 2017. Last year airlines had an average load factor of 80% of available seats as compared to 76% in 2017, the airport reported. 

American, Delta and United all had year-to-year load factor increases, and September had the lowest load factor percentage for the year with 74% of seats filled, which was still higher than five months out of 2017.

Construction on the airport's new terminal began in November and is progressing, airport officials said, with no impact on parking or other airport operations. The new terminal, which is being built in an empty area away from the existing terminal, will double the size of the current terminal building.

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