The year still has three months and change remaining – including the all-important holiday travel season – but Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport is already celebrating a 2021 to remember.
The airport by the end of August set a 12-month record for passenger traffic, breaking the old mark set in 1990.
“It is amazing to see us break our annual passenger record only eight months into the calendar year,’’ said Rick Piccolo, the airport’s president and CEO in a prepared statement. “While this incredible growth has resulted in added revenues that resulted in a continued decrease in costs for our airline partners, it has created the need for a number of significant capital improvements that the airport is moving on as quickly as possible.”
In the first eight months of 2021, 2,034,538 passengers passed through the airport, eclipsing the record of 2,010,304 set 31 year ago. In August, passenger traffic reached 247,900, 83% higher than the pre-pandemic levels of 2019 and more than three times the passenger traffic of August, 2020.
Ten airlines – Delta, United, American, Southwest, Allegiant, Jet Blue, Sun Country, Elite, Frontier, and Air Canada – operate to and from 50 destinations from Sarasota-Bradenton International.
In large part to the arrival of Allegiant and Southwest Airlines, traffic at Sarasota-Bradenton International has driven record-setting passenger gains in recent years. Between the two carriers, 48 destinations have been added since 2018.
Over the next decade, the Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority intends to add more commercial, hotel and office space to the property it owns in north Sarasota, particularly on land along University Parkway.
On July 21, representatives for the airport authority appeared before the city’s Development Review Committee for a preliminary meeting about plans for the future of 96.5 acres that are part of Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. In documents filed with the city, the airport said it will be submitting a series of development applications to facilitate changes on the site.
As part of those applications, the airport will ask the city to rezone 24.5 acres from government zoning to the intensive commercial district, which would accommodate the development of commercial properties for long-term leaseholders. To make room for future development on land dubbed the SRQ Gateway Centre, the airport intends to eliminate existing rental car space along University Parkway and concentrate those uses in a centralized facility to the north.