San Francisco breaks into US top 10; seven of top 20 airports still reported growth in 2008

Image: SFO
San Francisco is a high-demand route for Virgin America, which recently added a service from Boston to the west coast. A new service between Orange County (Santa Ana) and San Francisco will begin on 30th April. (Photos: Bill Wilson)

Analysis of monthly passenger traffic data as published by the airports themselves reveals that in 2008 San Francisco replaced Orlando in 10th place among America’s busiest passenger airports. It achieved 4.5% growth last year while Orlando’s traffic fell by 2.3%. Only seven of the top 20 airports reported passenger growth for the year as a whole while none reported growth in November and only Charlotte reported growth in October.

Chart: US top 10 airports traffic growth 2008 YTD
Source: Airport websites

Among the top 10 busiest airports only four reported growth. Although Atlanta grew by less than 1% it was enough to take the airport through the 90 million passenger mark for the first time. Severe weather around Houston in September resulted in the airport reporting an almost 20% decline in passenger numbers that month.

Seven of the top 10 airports have reported traffic figures for January and the results range between a small of decline of just 1.1% (at San Francisco) to a worrying decline of 15.7% at Las Vegas. Chicago O’Hare, Houston Bush and Los Angeles also all reported double-digit declines in passenger numbers at the start of the year.

Chart: Other major US airports growth 2008 YTD
Source: Airport websites

Among the next 10 busiest airports only Charlotte, Miami and Seattle reported annual growth. Washington Dulles replaced New York La Guardia at #20 while Boston was the only airport in this category that witnessed a traffic decline of more than 5%.

Detroit’s Metro Airport continues to be the only major US airport that does not publish monthly traffic statistics on its website. Hopefully, this regrettable oversight will be rectified in the near future.


  1. Please note that while Detroit Metro Airport does not currently post its monthly traffic statistics on its Web site (an addition we’ve been wanting to make for some time), the Wayne County Airport Authority always provides that data upon request. Until we are able to get our data posted, all it takes is a quick email or phone call to our Public Affairs office ( and we’d be more than happy to provide the data.

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