Sea-Tac traffic up nearly 5 percent in 2013

Staff writerFebruary 7, 2014 

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport passenger traffic, driven by a 10 percent surge in international traffic, grew by nearly 5 percent last year to 34.78 million, a new record.

Last year was the third consecutive year the airport set a new record for passengers handled.

The 4.7 percent passenger traffic increase was substantially above that of many major U.S. airports which either saw slow growth or even passenger traffic reductions.

Traffic at Denver International Airport, one of the nation's larger hub airports, fell by 1.19 percent last year to 52.6 million passengers.  The number of passengers at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, a hub for U.S. Airways and Southwest Airlines, dropped from 40.45 million in 2012 to 40.34 million in 2013.

Passenger numbers at Salt Lake City International Airport grew by only 0.42 percent. Salt Lake City, a hub for Delta Air Lines, handled 20.19 million passengers last year.

In 2012, Sea-Tac was the nation's 15th busiest airport by passenger traffic.  Not all airports have yet reported their 2013 traffic so the airport's 2013 rank is unknown.

Most of the airports that are busier than Sea-Tac -- airports such as Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas-Ft. Worth and Denver, are hubs where passengers change planes to continue to other destinations. Or they are major tourist destinations such as Las Vegas or Orlando.  Sea-Tac's traffic is mainly what is known as an "origin and destination" traffic. At such airports most of the passengers begin or end their journeys in the local area.

Sea-Tac is Alaska Airlines' hub, but most of that traffic is traffic to and from Alaska and Hawaii.

Even without major connecting traffic, Sea-Tac is busier than some hub airports such as Minneapolis-St. Paul, Detroit and Washington Dulles.  Sea-Tac has more traffic than airports in several cities larger than Seattle such as Boston and Philadelphia.

Sea-Tac saw its international traffic last year rise to 3.58 million. That traffic is expected to jump again this year as Delta Air Lines adds flights from Sea-Tac to Hong Kong, Seoul and London.


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