New York’s big three handling 20 million more passengers than in 2007; Newark passes 40 million mark; Chicago leading destination

New York airports 2016

The city that never sleeps welcomed over 129 million passengers in 2016, up 5.2% when compared to the year before. The leading hub is JFK, with it handling around 46% of all traffic, followed by Newark (31% of traffic) and LaGuardia (23%). Last year Newark was the fastest growing airport (traffic up 7.6%), with it now handling over 40 million passengers.

New York is the city that never sleeps, and last year the city greeted 129.1 million passengers through its three largest airports – JFK, Newark and LaGuardia – representing a growth rate of 5.2% when compared to 2015, and up 18% when analysed against a decade ago. This summer there are 3,038 flights taking off or landing at New York’s three largest airports every day according to OAG schedules, meaning that an aircraft departs or arrives on average every 35 seconds if spread across a 24-hour time-span. Of those flights, 39% operate from JFK, 34% from Newark and 27% from LaGuardia.     

20 million more annual passengers in 10 years 

As stated, last year New York saw 129.1 million passengers. In 2007 it accepted over 109 million, meaning that traffic has increased by 20 million over the past 10 years. During the last decade only two years have seen negative figures, with traffic across New York’s three largest airports dropping 2.6% in 2008 and 4.5% in 2009. What should be noted is that although traffic has grown each year since 2010, it took until 2012 for New York’s big three to pass the traffic figures seen pre-recession. 

New York 2007-2016

Source: Port Authority of NY & NJ.

The fastest growing of the three airports last year was Newark, which in 2016 encountered a 7.6% upturn in traffic. Last year was also the first in recent history to see the New Jersey airport see over 40 million passengers. Following Newark was LaGuardia with a 4.7% rise and JFK third, with New York’s largest airport seeing a 3.7% increase in traffic. Overall New York hosted 6.33 million more passengers last year than it did in 2015.

In 2016 45% of traffic passing through New York’s three biggest airports flew internationally, the same share of passengers that the market had the year before. Breaking down the international market from New York, 69% of non-US passengers travelled via JFK, 27% from Newark and 3.8% LaGuardia. 

Traffic up 3.4% in 2017 so far 

Between January and April this year, New York’s three largest airports handled just over 40 million passengers, up 3.4% from the 38.7 million that travelled from the city during the same period of 2016. Of those 40 million, 66% flew on domestic services, with the remaining 34% on international routes. The same ratio was also seen during the same four months of 2016. What this shows is that with the international and domestic markets having the same share of traffic as last year, both must be growing at similar rates. As already stated, traffic in 2016 grew by 5.2%, with the best months for traffic gains last year being February and September, with the second month of 2016 seeing an 11% rise in traffic (having an extra day helped) and the latter a 10% upswing.  

New York airports January 2015 - April 2017

Source: Port Authority of NY & NJ.

Between January and April last year, traffic for New York was up 7.1% when compared to the same four months of 2015, showing that the growth trend of New York for this year is currently only half of what it was at this point last year. With 2016’s total traffic growth registering at 5.2%, it means that at this point last year the trend in traffic gains dipped, with the remaining eight months of 2016 (April-December) seeing an average growth rate of 4.3%. If similar trends are to be followed this year, overall traffic growth to New York in 2017 will be below 3.4%.  

LaGuardia best airport for top city connections 

Each week there are 3,682 departures between New York’s three largest airports and the city’s top 12 destinations, with the number one airport from the Big Apple being Chicago O’Hare, a destination which sees 449 weekly one-way flights this summer. 62% of weekly departures to O’Hare from New York originate from LaGuardia, the leading airport in New York for departures to the city’s top destinations. Surprisingly LaGuardia claims this title despite not having non-stop services to New York’s third and eighth largest destinations, Los Angeles and San Francisco. 

New York's top 12 city connections

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser data for w/c 4 July 2017.

Bangkok leading unserved market; Budapest for Europe 

While New York is the most desired destination for many airports around the world that do not have a direct link to the Big Apple, some unserved city pairs do show significant demand for a direct flight. The leading unserved market from New York is Bangkok, with around 150,300 people travelling between the two cities in 2016 according to OAG Traffic Analyser data, representing 206 PDEW. The distance from JFK (largest market share of New York-originating passengers – 90%) to Bangkok Suvarnabhumi is 13,939 kilometres, a route that is accessible directly. However, with geographical constraints, such as routing and weather, a direct flight may require a technical stop en-route. 

Looking at other geographical areas of the world, the leading unserved market in Europe is Budapest, with 107,500 passengers travelling between the Hungarian capital and New York in 2016, representing an average PDEW of 147. Elsewhere the leading unserved market in South America is Belo Horiztone (63,100 passengers in 2016; 86 PDEW), in Africa it is Cape Town (52,200; 72 PDEW) and in the domestic market the leading unserved connection is Aspen (54,000; 74 PDEW). However, the latter, also like Bangkok, may be technically hard to operate due to the wingspan limitations on aircraft at Aspen (just 29m). That means an aircraft capable of operating from Aspen may struggle to reach New York.  

United overtakes Delta Air Lines to become New York’s leading carrier 

With United Airlines seeing its New York weekly seat capacity grow 3.1% during the past 12 months, the Star Alliance carrier has overtaken Delta Air Lines (seat capacity down 6.9%) to become the city’s leading airline. Of New York’s top 12 airlines five (highlighted in light green) are international carriers, with Air Canada taking the leading non-US carrier title away from British Airways, with the latter having witnessed a 5.6% drop in seat capacity to JFK and Newark this summer.  

New York's top 12 airlines 2017

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser data w/c 4 July 2017.

In total in S17 there are 87 airlines serving New York, with the two new carriers for this year being WOW air (Reykjavik/Keflavik to Newark) and Xiamen Airlines (Fuzhou to JFK). Outside of the top 12, other leading airlines include: Virgin Atlantic Airways (13th largest airline in relation to seats; 9.8% growth in weekly seat capacity); Norwegian (14th; 88%); Cathay Pacific Airways (15th; 0.0%); and Alaska Airlines (16th; 114%). The city’s fastest-growing airline of the last 12 months is Allegiant Air (45th), with it having grown its seat capacity to Newark by 473% since last summer.

Looking out for the rest of this year, one of the biggest routes heading to New York is Chongqing. The link from China will be served by Hainan Airlines, the carrier’s first route to the Big Apple, with it planning to operate a twice-weekly 787-8 service between the two cities. For Newark, it will welcome its second route with Norwegian in November – Rome Fiumicino – a service it will initially operate four times weekly, while its biggest carrier United Airlines will begin services to Buenos Aires Ezeiza from October. From LaGuardia there are currently no new routes planned. However, Alaska Airlines will take over Virgin America’s Dallas Love Field connection from 27 August, meaning the former carrier will now have a presence at all three airports in New York from this date.  

United Airlines New York

United Airlines has overtaken Delta Air Lines to become New York’s leading airline, thanks to the Star Alliance member increasing its weekly seat offering from the city by 3.1%. New airlines to New York in the past year include WOW air and Xiamen Airlines, while fellow Chinese carrier Hainan Airlines will become the newest entrant in October.


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