What Airports Have Grown The Most, And Which Ones Have Seen Available Seats Collapse?

Brian Sumers highlights data on which cities added the most airline seats from 2019 to 2022, and which cities saw the greatest reduction in airline capacity. With managed corporate travel still down 25%, leisure destinations dominate.

Here are the top 5 growth markets:

  • Austin: +48.4%
  • Nashville: +34.7%
  • Maui: +31%
  • Charleston, SC: +29.6%
  • Ontario, CA: +24.5%
  • Austin was year-in, year-out one of the fastest growing airports before the pandemic. Then things accelerated. American Airlines made a huge play for Austin, tripling flights and quadrupling destinations. Not everything has worked, but the city is an increasingly important one.

    Southwest is still the largest airline in Austin, but Delta squandered its opportunity to build out its focus city. They still have gates and a gorgeous club and should be doing more.

    Nashville is in many ways like Austin, and it was once an American Airlines hub. It’s an eclectic mix of modern and old school charm. There’s a lot that’s attractive about Nashville. The same can be said of Charleston, which has experienced significant growth. (Wentworth Mansion is an excellent use of Hyatt points there.)

    Hawaii saw significant growth during the pandemic. Anywhere you could go for leisure boomed, in Hawaii’s case at least once it re-opened and stopped requiring quarantine on arrival. There’s been a pullback from Hawaiian markets, but Maui’s growth was particularly impressive.

    Here are the top 5 declining markets:

  • Milwaukee: -22.4%
  • Philadelphia: -16.8%
  • Los Angeles: -16.7%
  • Fort Myers: -16.2%
  • San Francisco: -15.8%
  • San Francisco and Los Angeles aren’t surprises here. San Francisco itself has stagnated, while both California cities are major gateways to Asia during normal times. Asia travel hasn’t recovered as quickly as other destinations, with much of Asia just now re-opening.

    Meanwhile Philadelphia has been American’s primary transatlantic gateway. They used to fly to numerous smaller cities in Europe, which haven’t returned. American lacks the Boeing 757 and Boeing 767 aircraft that made these routes possible, meanwhile Boeing has been delayed in delivering 787s. Philadelphia also suffers as American has concentrated on rebuilding efforts at New York JFK as part of its partnership with JetBlue.

    It’s not only international that suffers at Philadelphia. American’s domestic route network there was optimized for connections to international, and without those international flights their domestic connectivity has remained reduced as well.

    Fort Myers is a bit of an outlier, since Florida generally has boomed. And Milwaukee, well, many years ago the show Night Court helped viewers understand what life was like in the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

    When you open your eyes, you’re going to be in the middle of Milwaukee. No matter where you go, no matter how far you run, you’re still going to be in the middle of Milwaukee. You can get in a cab, and drive two hundred miles in any direction, and you’re still going to be in the middle of Milwaukee. You can get in an airplane, and fly two thousand miles, and you’re still…

    Maybe it’s a good thing that the reboot of Midwest Express hubbing there never got off the ground.

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