The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s airports – the world’s busiest aviation network – are on pace to reach a fifth consecutive annual record for passenger levels, jumping 2.4 percent with nearly 63.6 million travelers in the first half of 2017 compared to the same period last year.
Benefitting from last fall’s relaxation of federal hourly flight limits, Newark Liberty International Airport served a record 20.9 million passengers between January and June, representing a robust 7.2-percent spike over the first six months of 2016. Fliers got a major bonus from the additional flights: Average round-trip tickets dropped 13.2 percent in the year’s first quarter with increased competition as new carriers entered the market.
Keeping its longstanding position as the nation’s leading airport in international passenger traffic with continued strong growth in international travel, John F. Kennedy International Airport also set a first-half-year record with more than 28.5 million total passengers, up 1.4 percent compared to the first six months of 2016. JFK also had strong growth in international cargo volume – which represents 82 percent of the airport’s total – from January to June 2017, with a 6.7 percent gain in tonnage over the same period a year earlier.
LaGuardia Airport posted the second highest first-half-year numbers in its history with slightly more than 14 million passengers from January to June 2017. International travel to Canada and the Caribbean posted a 16.7 percent gain through the first half of 2017, compared with the same period in 2016. The airport handled this significant passenger volume with major, ongoing construction work that will create a brand new, unified airport in the coming years.
Stewart International Airport had a particularly strong first half of 2017 – due to Allegiant Air’s increase in weekly flights – with a domestic passenger increase of nearly 10 percent compared with the first half of 2016. The advent of service by Norwegian Air to Europe also brought scheduled international passenger traffic back to Stewart Airport.
“The Port Authority’s airport system is one of the region’s greatest economic engines and the latest passenger records are a testament to the foresight of our commitment to modernizing these facilities,’’ said Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole. “We owe our record-level fliers both 21st century amenities and first-rate customer service, and we are in the process of ensuring these goals are fulfilled by leveraging both private and public investment in this critical infrastructure.”
“Reimagining the region’s airports into best-in-class 21st century gateways for New York and New Jersey, while not only maintaining operations but also setting records and creating thousands of jobs, is a critically important goal for the agency,’’ said Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton. “We are committed to making our airports once again models for the nation and the world.”
The Port Authority’s $32.2 billion 2017-2026 capital plan sets aside $11.6 billion – or 36 percent of the total plan – for modernizing and upgrading the agency’s airports. Funding is included for new terminals, enhancing airport roadway access, vastly improved rail links to and from the airports, as well as vital state-of-good-repair work on runways, taxiways and related lighting and electrical systems. The agency also is leveraging billions of dollars more in private investment at its airports through the airlines, air cargo companies and other firms.
Air cargo volumes at the Port Authority’s airports also were strong during the first half of 2017, expanding by 7 percent – the most since 2010 as the rebound from the Great Recession got underway. Stewart’s cargo was up 15.7 percent, while Newark Liberty and JFK posted 7.3-percent and 6.7-percent gains respectively.
At JFK, international air cargo – which represents more than three-quarters of the airport’s total – jumped 8 percent in the year’s first six months, compared with the same period a year earlier, while domestic freight increased about 1 percent.
Newark Liberty’s significant passenger volume increase and ticket price drops are largely attributable to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s decision last fall to relax the decade-old strict peak hourly limit of 81 combined departures and arrivals. Allowing additional flights during peak hours attracted new carriers such as Allegiant, Spirit and Wow airlines, while letting existing carriers like JetBlue Airways utilize unused flight slots during those times.
“The Port Authority long has encouraged increased competition at all its airports and the recent sharp price declines at Newark Liberty shows how making more airlines and destination options available serves our customers best,’’ said Huntley Lawrence, the Port Authority’s aviation director.