New Airport Passenger Traffic UP 170% over 2009

by November 10, 2010 • 12 comments

In case you’ve been wondering whether the construction of the new airport was in vain, 2010 passenger traffic since the new airport has been open is almost triple what it was in 2009, during the 2010 summer months.  Despite the threat of oil on our beaches, the new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport and all the marketing horsepower that was brought to the market by Southwest Airlines has been considered a huge success.

A normal July and August usually brings about 30,000 people per month through the old Panama City airport, but this summer there was around 83,000 per month.  This number comes as a huge welcome and leaves immense speculation:  what would it have been like had we NOT had the oil spill scare?

Icing on the cake was October’s numbers, 73,000 passengers came through the new airport – attributed to fall breaks around the country, national holidays and a series of successful fall events on Panama City Beach.

As if increased traffic wasn’t enough, the new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport seems to be drawing travelers regionally as well.  The parking lot frequently has cars from Tallahassee, Dothan, Ft. Walton, Destin, and even Pensacola.  The July and August numbers were also higher than Tallahassee’s passenger traffic numbers, for the first time ever – who normally come in at around 50,000 per month.

The word seems to be getting out that traveling to Panama City Beach is easier than it has ever been.  Mike Bennet, TDC Chairman and local restaurateur commented at Tuesday’s TDC meeting of a conversation he had with a visitor to one of his restaurants: “They were from Dallas, TX and normally took their beach vacation in Corpus Christi, and were surprised at how accessible and beautiful Panama City Beach was – they said they’d be coming back every year.”  This message was resounded by others recounting similar stories with customers.

Total annual traffic is now expected to be around 600,000 to 700,000 at the new Panama City Airport, which isn’t far off from big-city Pensacola, who passes around a million travelers through its gates every year.

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1 Terry November 10, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Interesting article but it does lead me to a question, which is, if traffic is up so much, then why are condo bookings and restaurants etc. having such a bad year? I don’t fully undertand this.


2 Joshua November 10, 2010 at 9:36 pm

Of course traffic is up over last year. But, the alarming thing is that Southwest’s loads were only at 55% in a warm month like July. I hate to see how low those numbers will be in the winter. No doubt, St Joe will be writing pretty big checks to Southwest.


3 Marc November 11, 2010 at 12:11 am

Where did you get Southwest Airlines Load Factor for Panama City Beach for July? I didn’t know they released that information. We flew Southwest in July to ECP and our plane was completely full.


4 Terry November 11, 2010 at 7:24 pm

FWIW, I too flew Southwest in August. Drove from Vancouver to Seattle, took Southwest from Seattle to PCB with a stop over at Nashville. But the plane was basically full. Still remember the blast of hot air we received coming out of the PCB airport. 🙂


5 Joshua November 12, 2010 at 9:12 am

Correction…July was 83%, Aug 65% and Sept was only 55% loads. This concerns me especially when Southwest loads are typically 80% – 84% system wide.


6 chris November 16, 2010 at 8:25 am

Before I even read the article my first thought was the same as Terry.
So where are all the people?
Why arent the hotels and condos full, why arent people eating at captain andersons etc…
For 4 months all ive been reading is the effect of Bp and how everthing is down. Now this article. I thought the purpose of the new airport was to bring in new tourist and business. When we flew in in august it was raining so hard
I had to walk about 1/2 mile for my rent a car . I am not impressed as a true vacationer with the new airport. lot of empty space and walls coverd with rental advertisement.


7 Ray November 16, 2010 at 8:31 am

will there ever be direct flights from Ottawa, Toronto or Montreal Canada to the PCB airport??? I know elderly and disabled people will have a hard time transferring planes…..


8 Steve November 16, 2010 at 10:14 am

I am from Oklahoma. Prior to SWA flying in to PCB, I was able to go to my condo 4 times a year. It was too much hassle to fly in to the old airport or Ft Walton. Fares were too expensive before SWA. Since SWA flies to PCB, I was there 4 times in October alone. It was beautiful every weekend. I can step off the plane and be walking in to my condo 20 minutes later. Fares are reasonable, especially if you book far in advance. There are no change fees, as opposed to $150 on Delta or the others. When I book a reservation, if something comes up, I change at no cost. The flexibility is great. I hate to think that SWA would ever quit flying in to PCB—–I would be back to four times a year. I love SWA!!!! Thank you St Joe.


9 Don November 16, 2010 at 9:20 pm

I’m ‘content’ with the new airport and hope numbers continue to look up. As a business traveler, I have no problem with the airport location as it is not unlike what one experiences in any big city. We rarely work by an airport and 30 -40 minute drives are normal.

I am disappointed in the parking and hope the airport authority considers building a parking garage instead of simply leveling another area further away from the terminal. A garage would be a great place to park you car out of the hot Florida sun or summer storm. I’d pay an extra couple of bucks a day for the privilege of covered parking.