At Upgraded Points, we not only love travel, we love data, especially when it’s data about travel. Every time there’s a new set of data released by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) or similar administration, we can’t wait to dig into the numbers.
With that in mind, we wanted to find out which airports grew the fastest and which ones declined in overall passenger traffic. We did a deep dive into the numbers and crunched the numbers for the 100 largest airports.
Additionally, we did the research for the 15 airports growing the fastest and the 6 airports that declined to provide some insight as to why.
Our interactive map below has the data on the largest 100 U.S. airports.
Our analysis used the principle concepts of the methodology from our robust 10-year study published in 2019. However, the report below uses year-over-year data from the most current numbers available to give a 12-month analysis, crunching the numbers on the 100 largest airports in the U.S. determined by passenger enplanement.
The metric used for this report is passenger enplanement, which is the count of all revenue boarding passengers at each airport, including through passengers. The FAA provides data on passenger enplanement each year.
The 15 Fastest Growing U.S. Airports
Out of the 100 largest airports, by passenger count of passengers, 94 of them saw some amount of growth. While some only saw a small percentage, others saw growth in the double-digits. Below is a map of the 15 fastest growing airports in the U.S. by percent growth of passengers year over year.
1. Nashville International (BNA)
Known for being the hub of country music and a popular destination for bachelorette parties, Nashville continues to grow. Its airport has grown right along with it. With growth of 16.15% year-over-year, it’s the fastest growing airport in the United States.
Nashville International (BNA) has seen an increase of routes and destination options, including significant expansion from Allegiant Air. Southwest has also added direct flights to BNA from major airports such as Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International (ATL).
2. Jacksonville International (JAX)
Jacksonville International came in as the second fastest growing airport at 16.05% growth. Budget airlines such as Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines added additional flights to Jacksonville, meaning more and more passengers to JAX.
3. Pensacola International (PNS)
Pensacola saw year-over-year growth of 15.83%, putting it third in our analysis. While BNA and JAX saw big boosts and growth from budget airlines, PNS saw increases from traditional players.
Both United Airlines and American Airlines added multiple routes to the airport in addition to a $4 million grant given by the state for the airport’s expansion.
4. Gerald R Ford International (GRR)
Gerald R Ford International (GRR), the airport for Grand Rapids, MI, saw 15.52% growth. It made consistent headlines for additional routes to Florida airports, Miami in particular, from budget airlines and traditional airlines alike.
5. Portland International Jetport (PWM)
Portland International (PWM) in Maine had growth of 14.79%. One of the smaller airports on our list, it gained flights from cities like Denver, Tampa, and increased routes from carriers such as Frontier.
6. Norman Y Mineta San Jose International (SJC)
San Jose International (SJC) saw a passenger increase of 14.71%, just missing out on the top 5 of our analysis. The airport saw over a dozen new routes and 80 additional weekly flights on Southwest.
SJC also saw additional service from Aeromexico, Delta Air Lines, and Alaska Airlines.
7. Savannah/Hilton Head International (SAV)
The Savannah/Hilton Head airport grew by 13.78% year-over-year. While it didn’t have as many headlines for new routes, it did see several increases from Allegiant and Frontier.
SAV was aided by Nashville’s growth, adding and receiving several routes from BNA.
8. Austin-Bergstrom International (AUS)
AUS benefited big from the budget airlines. Spirit added nearly 10 routes in under a year and Frontier expanded as well. These and others helped grow AUS by 13.23%.
9. Fresno Yosemite International (FAT)
The Fresno airport has seen 10 years of consecutive growth. The latest year-over-year numbers show it expanded by 13.03%.
Airport officials credited the growth to new routes and increased frequency on existing routes.
10. Charleston AFB/International (CHS)
With additions of flights to and from Austin (AUS) and Trenton (TTN), as well as the expansion of service from Allegiant Airlines, Charleston International (CHS) had a good year.
Overall they saw growth of 12.7%, giving it the 10th spot on our analysis.
11. Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International (CVG)
Once a major hub for Delta, the airport saw decreased routes from Delta for much of a decade. However, in 2018 it saw additional routes to Austin (AUS) as well as Phoenix. In all, CVG saw 12.59% growth.
12. Syracuse Hancock International (SYR)
With the help of Allegiant’s expansion of routes to Florida, SYR had 12.48% growth year-over-year. Additionally, Syracuse International (SYR) also saw increased routes from Frontier.
At the end of 2018, a $60 million improvement project was completed at the airport.
13. Richmond International (RIC)
Richmond International (RIC) was another airport that gained new routes from budget airlines. Overall, it had growth of 12.41%.
14. Hollywood Burbank, formerly Bob Hope (BUR)
Bob Hope Airport (BUR), also known as the Hollywood Burbank airport, grew by 11.58% year-over-year. Routes that had been canceled resumed, helping to boost their numbers.
15. Louisville Muhammad Ali International (SDF)
The Louisville Muhammad Ali (SDF) saw a number of major route additions in 2018, leading to a growth of 11.46%.
It saw addition routes to Houston as well as several additional options from budget airlines.
The 6 Fastest Declining U.S. Airports
1. James M Cox Dayton International (DAY)
The Dayton International Airport (DAY) saw the largest decline of any of the airports included in our study.
Overall, SAY saw an 8.27% passenger decrease. While there are multiple factors that can contribute, it’s worth noting that Dayton’s average ticket price was $80 higher than nearby Cincinnati (CVG).
2. Manchester-Boston Regional Airport (MHT)
While American added several new routes MHT, United dropped several. These drops, in part, led to a 5.98% decline, the second most in the U.S.
3. Luis Munoz Marin International (SJU)
Still reeling from the devastation of Hurricane Maria, the Puerto Rican airport saw another tough year in 2018. It saw a 4.05% decrease in passenger traffic year-over-year.
However, several airlines announced additional routes to SJU in late 2018, so we’ll be eager to check the numbers for 2019 when they’re released.
4. Chicago Midway International (MDW)
While Chicago is no stranger to winter weather, Chicago-Midway (MDW) had some unusual circumstances that lead to an above-average amount of cancellations. One of those was Southwest having to cancel 240 flights because they ran out of de-icing fluid. In all, they saw a 2.14% decrease in traffic.
5. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA)
Reagan National (DCA) saw a very small passenger drop — a 1.21% decline. Our research didn’t turn up any specific reason for a decrease, so we’ll see if they rebound the next year.
6. Minneapolis-St Paul International (MSP)
Similar to Reagan National (DCA), MSP saw a small decrease at 0.26%. Again, our research didn’t show any major reasons for the dip.
The low-cost carriers such continue to shake up the landscape when it comes to air travel. As they’ve continued to grow, they’ve expanded to more medium-sized airports, resulting in big increases in routes and passengers.
Our analysis shows that these airports with these new routes saw significant growth and were the fastest growing airports in the U.S.