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Anchorage Int’l Airport saw record passengers last year; here’s why

By: Leroy Polk, KTUU

January 31, 2019

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) – Millions of passengers flew to, through, or from the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport last year, and airport officials say it has a lot to do with an Alaskan economic staple: tourism.

According to numbers presented by the airport this week, over 5.6 million passengers traveled through the airport during 2018. That number includes an additional 85,000 passengers over 2017, a roughly 3.1 percent increase.

In a release issued this week, the airport stated that most of the increase can be attributed to “a robust tourism industry” in the state, which was facilitated by more flights.

“Last year airlines increased flight frequency, used larger aircraft, or both to accommodate the increased demand to visit the Last Frontier,” Anchorage Int’l Airport wrote in its release.

During the economic outlook presented at Anchorage Economic Development Corporation, CEO and president Bill Popp called the airport an increasingly important part of the local economy.

According to AEDC numbers last recorded in 2012, TSAIA accounted for more than 15,600 jobs in Anchorage, with air transit making up 30 percent of employment in the transportation field generally.

As far as the increased flights, TSAIA announced this past month that two new direct flights would begin service from Anchorage.

Those flights include a nonstop flight to Bellingham, Washington through Allegiant Air, and more nonstop flights to Las Vegas, Nevada with Sun Country Airlines. Both will be offered this summer.

While those flights didn’t play a part in the record passenger numbers reported by the airport for 2018, they could impact the numbers from this year, starting from the summer when they become available, according to airport projections.

“Nonstop flights stimulate growth and this new route will help continue the growth we saw last summer,” said Jim Szczesniak, manager of Ted Stevens, when the new routes were announced in mid-January.

The growth last summer that Szczesniak referred to played a big part in the overall boost observed for 2018 as a whole.

According to the wrap-up release the airport issued to detail last summer’s numbers,an extra 68,724 passengers were recorded between May and September of 2018.

The airport attributed this boost to “the growing interest in visiting Alaska and the robust efforts of Alaska’s vibrant tourism industry.”

This comes in addition to reports from October of 2018, when United Airlines expanded its flight between Ted Stevens International Airport, and Newark Liberty International Airport, to be a daily flight option.

Representatives for the airline said the flight between Alaska and New Jersey, which was described as United’s New York hub, used to run on Saturday only, but the airline noticed there was a higher demand than the one weekly flight could satisfy.

“There’s real demand for it,” Jonathan Guerin, spokesperson for United Airlines, said in a phone interview last year. “Our team that monitors demand really saw more and more customers wanting to fly to Anchorage, and we saw the opportunity to increase Anchorage flights.”

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