By Philip Newman
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said John F. Kennedy International Airport welcomed close to 41 million passengers in 2005, followed by Newark with 33 million and LaGuardia with 26 million. The nearly 100 million passengers passing through the gates was a record for the three airports. Port Authority analysts projected a 2006 passenger total surpassing 102.5 million for the three airports . The agency said final year-end figures were expected to be tabulated in a few weeks with the initial analysis showing what the Port Authority called “robust growth” of about 6 percent in passenger traffic at the three airports last year over 2004 levels. The 2005 passenger total for the three airports was in sharp contrast to the 81.8 million passengers who flew in 2001, when air traffic was sharply curtailed after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and other U.S. points.The full year figures for 2001 included 29.4 million passengers at Kennedy, 21.9 million at LaGuardia and 30.5 million at Newark, when all three airports – indeed all those nationwide – were shut down for three days after Sept. 11. The year 2002 brought 29.9 million passengers to Kennedy, 29.2 million to Newark and LaGuardia 22 million to LaGuardia. For 2003, it Kennedy drew 31.7 million, Newark 29.4 million and LaGuardia 22.5 million. In 2004 the number of passengers traveling climbed to 37.5 million at Kennedy, Newark 31.9 million at Newark and 24.4 million at Newark. The World Trade Center attack that so chilled air travel came at a time of surging passenger totals nationwide and airline analysts' projections of prodigious increases in coming years. For the year 2000, JFK registered 32.9 million passengers, Newark 34.2 million and LaGuardia 25.4 million. Charles Gargano, vice chairman of the Port Authority, said the three airports support nearly 500,000 jobs that generate $20 billion in wages as well as $57 billion in annual economic activity. “That's why we have spearheaded a $14 billion public and private redevelopment program at our airports that has delivered two AirTrain systems, new and refurnished passenger terminals, new parking garages, more efficient roads and world class concessions and retail programs,” Gargano said.The growth in air travel has included new routes and new airlines at JFK, where the discount carrier JetBlue generates nearly a quarter of all aircraft operatons and maintains its headquarters.Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 136.