RAPID CITY, S.D. (KELO) — The Rapid City Regional Airport is breaking passenger records for the first part of the year.

People were packing their bags and heading to the airport during the month of January here in Rapid City. Patrick Dame, Executive Director, says this is great news.

“Seeing an increase and a record number January is a perfect indication hopefully for what the season is to come but also the fact that we’ve been growing a little in the off-peak season,” Dame said.

The airport welcomed over 21,000 enplaned passengers during the month of January which is an 8.6 percent increase over the last record-breaking number.

“One of the things that is always exciting is that when you see growth in off-peak season. So we hear so much, we measure peak, we look at peak, it’s a very critical time for us so anytime we see growth in off-peak it really is important to us because we work hard to grow tourism year-round,” Brooke Kaufman, CEO of Visit Rapid City, said.

With the increase in passengers, the airport is dealing with some challenges.. including staffing.

“The industry is going through a flight crew and pilot shortage so we are not really sure what to expect, we are planning for the best and we hope to see some great summer numbers,” Megan Johnson, Rapid City Airport Communications, said.

With future expansions and construction projects in the works, the airport plans to accommodate the growing passenger numbers.

“We need the infrastructure to continue to grow as our area does,” Johnson said.

Compared to last year during the month of January, the number of passengers at the Rapid City Regional Airport jumped to nearly 35 percent.