United Airlines ended flights in and out Tyler Pounds Regional Airport on Monday.

Citing declining passenger numbers due to a slowdown in the energy sector, the airline announced the decision to end its Houston to Tyler flights in February.

Airport data showed Tyler Pounds saw a 16.1 percent drop in total passenger numbers from 2014 to 2015. The data showed United having run 70 to 90 flights per month out of the airport until the slowdown hit. In January and February of this year, the airline only had about 50 flights each month.

Airport Manager Davis Dickson said he expects to see numbers pick back up eventually.

"I really like United. We've had customers that let us know they're really going to miss that Houston connection," Dickson said. "I think East Texans are really wanting to fly. We're asking American (Airlines) to increase their flights. That's what we're hoping for."

Dickson said he also has been in preliminary discussions with other smaller airlines.

"It's not something that's permanent, I feel like, with our growing economy and growing city," Dickson said. "I think it will start turning around. My hope is that they'll look at us again."

Dickson said this has happened before; an airline has left the market only to return a few years later.

For now Dickson is focusing on finding new flights for East Texans and soon will have new incentives available to attract airlines. The Tyler City Council approved a set of incentives in February that include the possibility of waiving landing fees for new airlines for one year and the city footing the bill for marketing costs of the new flights.

Twitter: @TMT_Cory

Cory is a multimedia journalist and member of the Education Writers Association, Criminal Justice Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. He has appeared on Crime Watch Daily and Grave Mysteries on Investigation Discovery.

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