The airline biz is booming. Here’s how big it is at Fresno Yosemite International

Passengers flying into and out of Fresno Yosemite International Airport set a new record for the airport in 2017-18, topping 1.63 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30.

Airport officials credited new airline services and more frequent flights on some routes to popular business and pleasure destinations for boosting the passenger totals over the previous year’s record of 1.5 million passengers. It is the 10th consecutive year of growth following a decline during the economic recession of the late 2000s.

“We were able to bounce back fairly quickly after the recession,” said Vikkie Calderon, an airport spokeswoman. “We got back to where we were before by 2012. Since that time, we’ve continued to grow at a healthy pace.”

The figures reflect the total of all incoming and departing flights by airlines to cities across the western U.S. as well as international flights to and from Mexico by Volaris and Aeromexico.

The increase in passengers comes despite airlines offering fewer flights to and from Fresno than they did just a few years ago. The reason is that airlines have steadily transitioned from slower and smaller turboprop aircraft to larger, more efficient jets even to relatively nearby destinations such as San Francisco and Los Angeles. The last propeller-aircraft flight by an airline at Fresno was three years go.

“This impressive passenger growth rate is a testament of Central Valley travelers choosing Fresno Yosemite International Airport as their airport of choice, as well as our airline partners’ commitment to providing a variety of airline options for the region,” said Kevin Meikle, director of aviation for the city of Fresno.

Meikle cited several moves by United Airlines and other companies as contributing to the increase. United is now operating its own flights to and from San Francisco rather than contracting with Utah-based SkyWest Airlines, which flies under the United Express brand and other airline brands to cities across the western United States. Also, United and American Airlines are offering more daily flights to and from Los Angeles, and United has launched daily nonstop flights to and from Chicago, now the easternmost destination for nonstop flights from Fresno.

Alaska Airlines added a third daily nonstop round trip between Fresno and San Diego on a seasonal basis. Frontier Airlines, which has entered and exited the Fresno market on two previous occasions, returned this year with nonstop service to Denver. Allegiant Air has also increased the frequency of its service to and from Las Vegas; it is the only airline providing flights from Fresno to Las Vegas.

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Passenger numbers also lagged in Fresno after Mexicana Airlines, which offered flights to and from Guadalajara, Mexico for several years at Fresno, abruptly ceased its service and went out of business after filing bankruptcy in 2011. Volaris and Aeromexico, two other Mexico-based airlines, stepped in with their own flights to Guadalajara. Late last year Volaris added twice-a-week nonstop flights to and from Morelia, which is the capital of the Mexican state of Michoacan.

“As the region continues to grow,” Meikle said, “we are actively planning and preparing for capacity-related facility and infrastructure improvements that will be necessary within the next five years.”

Tim Sheehan: 559-441-6319; Twitter: @TimSheehanNews.
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