Even with a pair of storm-related air traffic hiccups — one in September and one in December — the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport still managed to smash a calendar-year passenger record by more than 20%, SRQ’s president and CEO said this week.
In 2022, a year marked by Hurricane Ian and a winter storm over the Christmas holidays that initially disrupted air travel, then fed into a cascade of cancellations by the airport’s top carrier, 3.87 million passengers travelled through the airport. That was a 21.6% increase over 2021’s record year of 3.16 million passengers.
“I want to thank the Sarasota and Bradenton community, along with visitors from all over the world, for supporting the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport in 2022,’’ Piccolo said in a prepared statement. “We look forward to serving you in 2023.”
Over the past five years, the airport reported, passenger traffic has grown from 1.2 million passengers in 2017, owing largely to the influx of new flights and destinations offered by Southwest Airlines, the airport’s largest carrier, and Allegiant Air.
Piccolo said SRQ is served by 11 airlines to 56 destinations. In addition to Southwest and Allegiant, Air Canada, American, Avelo, Breeze, Delta, Frontier, Jet Blue, Sun Country and United fly from the airport, at least seasonally.
The airport was closed for about 48 hours in September when Hurricane Ian struck the west coast of Florida. In December, Southwest cancelled more than 16,000 flights nationwide over 10 days beginning on Dec. 21.
Initial work began in late 2022 on an expansion at SRQ, revolving around a centerpiece project that will add five ground-boarding gates to the airport’s 13 gates.
The $72 million ground-boarding facility is slated for completion in the second quarter of 2025, but airport authority board members asked Piccolo if an earlier completion date — ideally by October 2024 — could be incentivized. That would be in time to take advantage of the beginning of the busy travel season and perhaps generate additional revenues.
Airlines, however, must be notified of the additional gate capacity well in advance in order to develop their flight schedules if expansion is in their plans.
Airport officials envision a 7 million passenger capacity per year once the new gates and concourse is completed.