Airports vital to Florida’s economy. And future.
Air travel was one of the top five industries most affected by COVID-19. Talk about a turnaround. Today, airports are thriving, with Florida airports recovering much faster than predicted and experiencing passenger growth at alarmingly high rates.
Tampa International Airport recovered quicker than most airports in the country with 18,115,213 annual passengers in 2021. A 76.94 percent increase from 2020. The count was even stronger in 2022 with 21,231,980 annual passengers.
Generating approximately $14.4 billion in economic activity each year, Tampa International is the 28th busiest airport in the United States and fourth busiest in Florida. There are approximately 10,500 people employed by the airport and its tenants.
St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport set an all time passenger record in 2022 with 2,445,919 passengers, a 20 percent increase over 2021 and 7 percent increase from pre-pandemic 2019. This past December was the greatest on record with 211,024 passengers.
Nearby Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport showed similar trends anticipating record breaking growth.
Great news came in 2021 for the aviation industry when the Senate passed a historic bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, setting the stage for the largest investment in American infrastructure in a generation. The bill included $25 billion in federal funding on top of regular Airport Improvement Program funds for airports. With new life breathed into the travel industry, this funding will be vital for the long-term sustainability of the airline industry.
It was soon followed by $240,451,192 from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law awarded to make much-needed improvements to air travel infrastructure and support Florida’s tourism-based economy. As part of the funds, a total of 98 Florida airports will benefit.
In addition to these guaranteed funds, Florida’s airports were able to compete with other airports throughout the country for an additional $5 billion in grants for terminal and landside improvements.
In July 2022, the Biden administration announced it was giving nearly $1 billion to 85 airports to expand and upgrade terminals and other facilities. Florida Airports receiving funding included:
• Gainesville $1,677,250
• Orlando $50 million
• Sarasota-Bradenton $10 million
Upgrades to airports across Florida will help them serve more customers while keeping current and competitive. Improvements will include terminal and concourse expansions and additions, capacity improvements like enhancing safety and efficiency by streamlining security checkpoints, adding concession space and providing passengers more amenities and options.
Florida’s economic success is tied to its airport system and aviation industry. Aviation in Florida allows the state to capitalize on an increasingly global marketplace and sustains and leads economic growth and development. Airports are not only important for local residents and visitors, but for the local companies that rely on them to support and conduct business.
Improving infrastructure for the future of airports and transportation is vital to the airline industry and our nation.
– Mike Bowen, VP Aviation, Suffolk