The number of passengers who used the Portland International Jetport in 2013 jumped more than 3.7 percent compared with the previous year, said airport Director Paul Bradbury. That’s nearly 60,000 more passengers in 2013 than in 2012.
Bradbury said the primary reason for the increase in passengers was that Southwest Airlines began operating out of Portland last April.
Southwest took over AirTran Airway’s route between Portland and Baltimore, and didn’t add any routes when it moved to Portland. However, Southwest uses a larger plane, a Boeing 737, which carries 144 passengers. AirTran’s plane, a Boeing 717, carries only 117 passengers.
In addition, Southwest passengers now have access from the airline’s Baltimore hub to more than 90 percent of Southwest’s national network, Bradbury said, making Southwest a more attractive option for people shopping for flights.
“Once you get to Baltimore, you have nearly the entire Southwest network available to you,” he said.
Southwest Airlines this June will offer new Saturday nonstop service between the Portland International Jetport and Chicago’s Midway International Airport, a link that will give Portland air travelers connections to 64 cities with more than 200 daily flights, jetport officials announced on Wednesday.
The airline will also add a fourth daily nonstop flight to Baltimore in June.
Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, Southwest Airlines is the world’s largest low-cost carrier. Since it acquired AirTran Airways in 2011, it has carried the most domestic passengers of any U.S. airline.
Prior to the acquisition of AirTran Airways, Southwest primarily operated out of smaller airports that offer lower costs and less congestion, such as Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in New Hampshire, Bradbury said.
Now, Southwest also is flying out of major air hubs, such as Boston’s Logan International Airport. Southwest’s expansion to Boston in 2009 and now Portland is cutting into Manchester’s market, Bradbury said.
Between 2007 and 2012, the Manchester airport suffered a 41 percent decline in passengers, according to a report by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
For the 12-month period ending Nov. 30, 2013, Manchester had 2.4 million passengers, a decline of 1.2 percent from 2012, according to airport data. T.F. Green Memorial State Airport in Providence, R.I., had 3.8 million passengers, an increase of 3.8 percent from 2012.
Logan airport saw a record year for passengers in 2013. According to Massport, 29.6 million passengers passed through the airport, a 1 percent increase over 2012.
National figures for passengers using U.S. airports in 2013 have not yet been compiled.
Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at: