The number of people using the Casper-Natrona County International Airport in 2017 was up nearly 5 percent from the year before, which probably indicates a better local economy, airport manager Glenn Januska said.

"For 2017, we had a recorded 97,585 passenger enplanements, which are passengers getting on board aircraft to depart here, and that is a 4.8 percent increase when we look at the same time period for calendar year 2016," Januska said.

In 2016, the number of enplanements was 93,136, he said.

The growth indicates a stabilizing, if not growing, economy, he said.

Neither leisure nor business travelers will fly as much if their money is tight, Januska said.

Another factor may be more people driving from elsewhere in Wyoming to Natrona County for air service, although that is hard to measure, he said.

'We really think that most of this is a stronger economy, more confidence in the economy, businesses doing better, businesses being more stable, businesses expanding, and the workers more confident of the economy and translating into leisure flights," Januska said.

He didn't know whether more or fewer people are traveling to Denver -- known as leakage -- to fly, because such a study has not been done for more than a year, he said. However, the biannual studies have indicated that fewer people are going to Denver, and more would fly from Casper if the fares were less, he added.

Allegiant Airlines, which flew from Casper to Las Vegas several times a week, was not operating for a couple of months compared to 2016 when they flew all 12 months, he said. Allegiant quit flying from Casper on Jan. 1.

Airport officials are in constant negotiations to try to find another carrier, but it's not easy, Januska said.

The prospects for another carrier improve as the economy and passenger demand do, he said. "That's what helps convince an airline to say, 'you know, Casper's a market we want to go into."

Courtesy Casper-Natrona County International Airport