An Embraer 175 in use by American Airlines on its regional American Eagle flights. Image courtesy of American Airlines.

About 1,600 more passengers used Springfield’s Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport in the first half of 2017, compared with the same time frame last year.

The boost in traffic comes as the airport prepares to host larger airplanes.

From the start of 2017 through June 30, a total of 99,076 passengers flew through the Springfield airport, compared with 97,471 during the first half of 2016 – an increase of about 1.65 percent.

The airport also recently announced that American Airlines, which operates flights between Springfield and Dallas-Fort Worth, will begin running larger aircraft through Springfield on Aug. 23. The Embraer 175 jet with 76 seats will replace the older Embraer ERJ-145, which has 50 seats. The newer plane, first used by American Airlines in 2013, offers a roomier main cabin with 64 seats, a first-class cabin with 12 seats, Wi-Fi and wireless entertainment streaming. The seats in the 175 are all either window or aisle spots, meaning there is no middle seat.

Airport Authority commissioner Dianne Barghouti Hardwick said the larger planes should appeal to convention and tourist groups, as well as Springfield businesses.

“This aircraft upgrade will provide tremendous opportunities and advantages for our community, especially once passengers experience the air service enhancement for themselves,” she said.

Frank Vala, chair of the Airport Authority board, said the group had been working with American Airlines to bring more flight capacity to the Springfield market. He says the airport recently installed a new jet bridge to accommodate larger planes and remodeled the American Airlines boarding gate.

“We know passengers will enjoy the experience on board this aircraft,” Vala said. “This investment by American Airlines, to fly larger aircraft into Springfield, has the potential to provide many positive economic impacts for our community.”