Portland jetport sees increase in passengers for first time in four years

A Southwest passenger jet sits at a terminal at Portland International Jetport in late August.
A Southwest passenger jet sits at a terminal at Portland International Jetport in late August. Buy Photo
Posted Jan. 29, 2014, at 10:30 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2014, at 4:35 p.m.
Paul Bradbury
Paul Bradbury

PORTLAND, Maine — With the addition of one of the world’s largest low-cost carriers in 2013, Portland International Jetport saw nearly 60,000 more passengers go through its gates than the previous year, airport officials announced Wednesday.

The increase ends a four-year run of declining passenger numbers at Maine’s highest-traffic airport, offering another potential sign of recovery from the economic recession that affected vacationers and business travelers alike.

“The Portland International Jetport carried 59,255 more passengers in 2013,” said Paul Bradbury, airport director, in a statement. “There were a lot of factors contributing to the increase and a big contributor was the addition of Southwest Airlines in April of 2013.”

A total of 1,675,978 passengers used the Portland jetport in 2013, a mark that represents a 3.7 percent uptick compared to 2012.

The last time the airport saw an increase in passengers came in 2008, just before the brunt of the recession hit, when an all-time high of 1,762,975 people passed through the facility’s gates. Between 2009 and 2012, the jetport saw annual declines of between 1.47 percent and 1.9 percent.

Bradbury said Wednesday he expects 2013’s upward trajectory to continue in 2014, as Southwest begins to offer nonstop flights to Chicago’s Midway Airport, a move that will plug Portland travelers into a mid-American hub connected to 64 other cities through more than 200 daily flights.

The Chicago service starts on June 14. Those two-plus-hour flights will depart Portland each Saturday at noon, and return trips will leave the Windy City on the same day every week at 11:05 a.m.

On June 9, Southwest will also add a fourth daily nonstop flight to Baltimore. The approximately 95-minute straight-shot flights to Baltimore will take off at 5:55 a.m., 10:40 a.m., 3:20 p.m. and 6 p.m. each day, with return flights leaving the Maryland city at 8:45 a.m., 1:25 p.m., 4:05 p.m. and 9:55 p.m.

Last month, Business Insider ranked Portland as one of the top 14 places in the world to visit in 2014, alongside such attractions as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and the World Cup-hosting nation of Brazil.

“This addition [of flight service] clearly is in response to the growing demand for travel to and from Portland and the increased use of the jetport,” said Bradbury in a statement.

In September, the jetport unveiled a nearly $415,000 state-of-the-art security system, becoming one of two airports in the country at the time to utilize the new highly sensitive video corridor.

That investment came on the heels of a massive $75 million, 145,000-square-foot terminal expansion completed in 2011.

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