COVID-19: More passengers at Sarasota Bradenton FL airport

Holiday travel helped lift passenger traffic at Sarasota Bradenton International Airport by 12 percent in December, compared to a month earlier, capping a year dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With as many as 40 arriving and departing flights each day during the holidays, there were 119,114 passengers in December, compared to 106,195 in November.

A year-to-year comparison, however, shows the continuing impact of the pandemic. For the month, passenger traffic at SRQ was 52 percent of what it was in December 2019, when there were 228,015 passengers.

End-of-year figures show airport passenger traffic was down 37% with 1,236,986 passengers, compared to 1,966,950 passengers in 2019.

“For 2020, COVID-19 brought many challenges to the airport and airline industry. SRQ started the year with record-breaking growth, only to see traffic slow to less than 10,000 passengers for the month of April. Our parking lots went from having up to 2,000 cars parked per day to less than 50,” Rick Piccolo, the airport’s president and CEO, said in a press release.

To cope with the pandemic, SRQ implemented stepped-up cleaning and safety measures and expedited construction projects that would have been difficult to complete during a busier time. Among those projects: repaving short and long-term parking lots, redesigning the screening checkpoint and accelerating airfield construction projects.

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11/13/2019–Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, travelers bunched up at ticket counters at Sarasota Bradenton International Airport to check their bags, helping drive passenger traffic to record levels. Bradenton Herald file photo

“With a shift in demand from business to leisure travelers, we worked closely with Visit Sarasota County and the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau to market our destination and promote our pristine beaches, outdoor activities, and warm weather climate. We communicated these attributes with our existing airlines and new airlines that were not currently serving our airport. This resulted in the culmination of new routes, destinations, and the addition of Southwest Airlines who will begin service at SRQ next month,” Piccolo said.

Future scheduled service that is currently loaded in the airline reservation system shows an increase in seats into and out of SRQ to be at levels near pre-COVID.

“With the vaccine currently being distributed worldwide, and SRQ now offering service on 10 airlines to 43 destinations, we are hopeful that 2021 will be a much better year for both the airport and the community,” Piccolo said.

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8/28/2019– Rick Piccolo, president and CEO of Sarasota Bradenton International Airport, saw SRQ become one of the fastest growing airports in the United States before the COVID-19 pandemic. Bradenton Herald file photo Bradenton

Flights starting soon:

Feb. 6, Philadelphia, Frontier (returning seasonal service)

Feb. 6 Chicago O’Hare, Frontier (returning seasonal service)

Feb. 11, Houston Intercontinental, United (new service)

Feb. 13 Denver, United (returning seasonal service)

Feb. 14 Baltimore-Washington, Southwest (new service)

Feb. 14 Chicago Midaway, Southwest (new service)

Feb. 14 Houston Hobby, Southwest (new service)

Feb. 14 Nashville, Southwest (new service)

March 6 Trenton, N.J., Frontier (returning seasonal service)

March 13 Columbus, Ohio, Southwest (new seasonal service)

March 13 Indianapolis, Southwest (new seasonal service)

Mar. 13 Pittsburgh, Southwest (new seasonal service)

May 27 Peoria, Ill., Allegiant (new seasonal service)

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James A. Jones Jr. covers business for the Bradenton Herald. He is the author of “Oh, Darling! Choices and Struggle in the Age of Sputnik, the Vietnam War and the New Millennium.”
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