The US’ top-100 airports: Los Angeles, Seattle, Fort Lauderdale, Nashville stand out for growth since 2010

The US’ top-100 airports Los Angeles, Seattle, Fort Lauderdale, Nashville stand out for growth since 2010

The US’ top-100 airports had nearly 1.29 billion two-way seats last year, up by 260 million – or 25.2% – over 2010.

This article is the first in a series that looks into how seats at these top-100 airports changed in 2019 versus 2010 using OAG Schedules data.  In this first article, we look at the biggest absolute changes in seat capacity in this period.

All change for six airports

In 2010, six airports were in the top-100 that were not last year: Islip (#87); Colorado Springs (90); Wichita (93); Akron Canton (96); Jackson (97); and Huntsville (98).

All were clearly near the threshold for entry into the top-100, which in 2010 was just over 1.8 million departing seats.

These six were ‘replaced’ last year by Orlando Sanford (#79), Greenville/Spartanburg (84), Tampa St Petersburg (93), Fayetteville (AR) (95), Fresno (96), and Sarasota (97). 

Top-20 airports by absolute increases in seats

Between 2010 and 2019, the following top-20 airports added a mean of 12.3 million seats for a mean percentage increase of 24.6%.

16 of these 20 airports were within the top-20 of the leading 100 by two-way seats. Not surprisingly given this measure, it was mainly the larger airports that got bigger.

  Absolute change in two-way seats % change in two-way seats Ranking in 2019 by the US’ top-100 airports by seats Ranking in 2010 by the US’ top-100 airports by seats
Los Angeles 29,092,911 39.4   2 3
Seattle 21,965,009 57.4 8 18
Atlanta 17,922,021 16.5 1 1
Dallas Fort Worth 17,129,367 24.3 4 4
Orlando 16,738,837 40.5 11 14
Chicago O’Hare 16,689,348 19.8 3 2
Fort Lauderdale 16,651,534 61.2 19 23
Denver 15,671,017 24.5 5 5
San Francisco 14,043,724 23.2 7 9
Las Vegas 12,918,909 19.3 9 11
Newark 11,842,645 24.7 12 12
Charlotte 11,515,818 24.1 10 10
Boston 10,697,720 22.9 15 19
Nashville 10,032,361 80.3 31 37
New York JFK 9,699,707 14.7 6 6
Dallas Love 9,679,512 80.5 32 39
Austin 9,665,450 86.8 33 44
San Diego 9,530,854 44.7 23 27
San Jose 9,067,230  80.4 34 43
Miami 7,588,337 17.5 16 13
Source: OAG Schedules Analyser.

Los Angeles #1 by added seats…

Los Angeles added the most seats in this period – up 29 million and 39.4% – pushing it into the second-largest spot for US airports.

Los Angeles’ strong growth was partly from its passenger carrier list rising by 14 to 72, together with big capacity increases across multiple carriers.

In particular, American added 8.6 million seats (6.5 million if combining US Airways’ 2010 figure), Delta (8.5 million), Alaska (4.2 million, or 1.9 million if Virgin America and Alaska’s 2010 seats are combined), Spirit (from almost zero to 3 million), and Southwest (1.9 million).  

JetBlue had 1.7 million more seats at Los Angeles in 2019 than in 2010, in contrast to Long Beach at which it reduced capacity.  

JetBlue last week announced that it will end Long Beach and instead consolidate at Los Angeles. In terms of new routes, the airline will later this year add Los Angeles to Austin, Bozeman, Las Vegas, Reno, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Seattle.

The US’ top-100 airports Los Angeles, Seattle, Fort Lauderdale, Nashville stand out for growth since 2010

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser.

… but #2 Seattle stands out

With almost 22 million additional seats – up 57.4% – and climbing ten spots to #8 in the top-100, Seattle stands out. 

Delta’s strong growth at Seattle was, of course, the core driver of the Washington State’s big increase. 

In 2010, Delta had just under four million seats across 12 routes.  Last year, this had grown to almost 14.5 million and 59 (excluding one-offs).

The US’ top-100 airports Los Angeles, Seattle, Fort Lauderdale, Nashville stand out for growth since 2010

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser.

80%+ growth for four of the top-20

Austin, San Jose, Dallas Love, and Nashville – all of which were around mid-ranking in 2010 – are notable for both significant percentage increases of about 80% and often big moves up the scale.

All added over nine million seats in this period, with Nashville passing the 10 million mark. 

While winners by percentage growth will be looked at properly in another article, on an individual airline basis Nashville’s growth was primarily driven by Southwest’s additional five million seats – to over 12 million.  It had 47 routes from the airport last year, up from 31 in 2010. Southwest cut Newark to focus on La Guardia from winter 2019.

Meanwhile, Delta performed strongly too, adding 1.4 million seats.

The US’ top-100 airports Los Angeles, Seattle, Fort Lauderdale, Nashville stand out for growth since 2010

Southwest’s Nashville route network last year. Newark, EWR, has since ended. Source: OAG Mapper.

Some big names missing

Various airports – including Phoenix, Houston Intercontinental, Minneapolis, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Washington Dulles – are conspicuous by their absence in this top-20 list.

Most grew far shallower than the median of 12.3 million seats: Minneapolis (+2.9 million seats), Houston (+2.3 million), Phoenix (+2.3 million), and Detroit (+1.9 million).

Significantly, Philadelphia and Washington Dulles both had fewer seats in 2019 than 2010.  This – and cuts at other airports – will be looked at in another article.

Two airports in the top-20 reduced in ranking

12 of the top-20 airports increased in ranking while six remained the same. 

Only two – Chicago O’Hare and Miami – reduced in position.  This is despite Chicago adding almost 16.7 million more seats – well above mean – but it was outpaced by Los Angeles.  Chicago also underperformed on a percentage basis.

The difference in performance between Miami and Fort Lauderdale is stark, with Fort Lauderdale adding over nine million more seats than its larger competitor. This is partly from Fort Lauderdale’s much lower fees which has strongly aided growth.

This has resulted in Miami’s lead over Fort Lauderdale reducing from 16.1 million in 2010 to just over seven million last year.

The US’ top-100 airports Los Angeles, Seattle, Fort Lauderdale, Nashville stand out for growth since 2010

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser.


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