Monday, July 17, 2017

Florida's airport traffic rises above Texas'

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott spent the past week touting the state’s move ahead of Texas in the overall number of passengers boarding airplanes.

While many large commercial airports in Florida have been steadily climbing, the vault to second in the nation in 2016 came with growth predominantly at facilities in Central and South Florida.

“You’d expect to see continued growth in Orlando because it is a major tourist destination for people all over the world, and continues to be the number one destination for people booking vacations through AAA — based on hotel bookings,” said Mark Jenkins, a AAA spokesman. “St. Pete-Clearwater and Fort Lauderdale airports are popular alternatives to the bigger international airports in Tampa and Miami. People might choose these smaller airports because they are less crowded, so it is easier to get in and out, but also because they can often find cheaper airfares.”

Florida recorded a nearly 4 percent growth in its overall outbound passenger count, from 78.07 million in 2015 to 81.17 million last year, according to annual Federal Aviation Administration data.

The Federal Aviation Administration figures counted 59 active airfields in Florida last year, from the 20.8 million airline passengers departing from Miami International to the single passenger recorded as flying out of Zephyrhills Municipal in Pasco County.

With Florida trailing only California for air passengers, the largest year-to-year increases in such traffic were found at Orlando International, Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International, Orlando Sanford International and St. Pete-Clearwater International, along with a number of smaller regional facilities, according to the Federal Aviation Administration figures.

Other airports were more in a year-to-year holding pattern.

Scott, in part, credited the recent uptick in passengers to state infrastructure spending.

“Florida’s airports help welcome millions of visitors, business leaders and families to our state each year, and have a significant impact on supporting job creation and growing our economy,” Scott said in a prepared statement. “That is why I am proud that we have invested more than $1 billion in state funding in our airports over the past six years.”

The state spending includes $263 million for aviation improvements in the budget that started July 1.

The next hurdle for Florida remains California, which experienced 7.2 percent growth in traffic that put its outbound passenger count in 2016 at 105.7 million.

California, topped by 39.6 million passengers last year at Los Angeles International and 25.7 million at San Francisco International, had people flying out of 74 different locations.

Among Florida’s top 10 busiest airports, Orlando International grew 8.12 percent year to year, bumping its terminal count to 20.3 million in 2016.

Orlando Sanford International, an alternative to the massive Orlando International, went up 9.18 percent, to 1.3 million passengers last year.

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood grew by 9.2 percent, to 14.26 million.

The largest percentage year-to-year increase among the 10 busiest was St. Pete-Clearwater International, going from 819,974 passengers in 2015 to 915,668 in 2016, an 11.67 percent jump, primarily due an expansion of routes by Allegiant Air, the airport’s dominant carrier.

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