The number of airline passengers flying from and to Fresno Yosemite International Airport reached a record in 2016, topping 1.5 million travelers for the first time in the airport’s history.
The total represents 773,140 departing passengers and 767,483 arrivals on scheduled airline flights, and represents a combination of both domestic and international flights, said Kevin Meikle, the city’s director of airports. The previous record of about 1.4 million people was set in 2014.
The new record comes even as the number of airline flights has dropped substantially in each of the past two years.
In 2014, according to figures from the Federal Aviation Administration, airlines flew a total of 26,109 flights to and from Fresno. That fell to about 21,400 in 2015, and declined even further to about 16,740 last year – a two-year loss of almost 36 percent.
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“In 2015, the airlines got rid of all their little 30-seat turboprops,” Meikle said. In place of those propeller-driven aircraft, which represented most of the short-distance flights to San Francisco and Los Angeles, airlines brought in larger regional jets. And while they scaled back on the number of daily or weekly flights available, the net result has been an increase in the overall number of airline seats available.
1,133,541Airline passengers to and from Fresno, 2010
1,540,623Number of passengers, 2016
27,128Airline flights to and from Fresno, 2010
16,739Number of flights, 2016
“Everybody stepped up, and we saw this growth occur, but I thought it would tail off to about 2 or 4 percent like the rest of the country,” Meikle said. “But it kept growing. The airlines responded with additional seats, and they’ve been filled.”
The overall load factor – the percentage of seats that are filled on an average flight – for aircraft flying to and from Fresno is about 82 percent. “The public is responding by using our airport,” Meikle said.
Research by Fresno’s airports department indicates that almost 60 percent of the people using the airport are from outside the city of Fresno, coming from up and down the Valley to travel.
And among Valley residents, Meikle said, “71 percent of those who fly use our airport” rather than driving to larger airports like San Francisco International or Los Angeles International. The “leakage” of 29 percent to those larger airports, he added, tend to be travelers who are heading overseas on international flights.
July was the busiest month at Fresno’s airport last year, with more than 149,000 passengers. July is typically one of the busiest months, said Meikle.
“If you think about it, in June some kids are still in school, and in August some schools are already getting back in session,” he said. “July is a whole month when there’s no school going on and people are taking family vacations.”
Passengers on nonstop flights to and from Guadalajara, Mexico – putting the “international” into Fresno Yosemite International – accounted for almost 13 percent of the passenger totals last year, Meikle said.
Aeromexico and Volaris, two Mexico-based airlines, launched service in the spring of 2011, several months after Mexicana Airlines went out of business and ceased all of its flights, including to and from Fresno.
The number of international passengers has grown steadily, from a little more than 105,000 in 2011 to nearly 200,000 last year.