By Rich Bockmann
Queens’ two airports had a banner year in 2013 as an all-time-record number of passengers passed through their gates, the Port Authority’s preliminary figures showed.
For the fourth year in a row the combined passenger traffic rose at John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports, hitting approximately 77 million flyers last year.
The borough’s two airports last had a dip in their combined traffic in 2009, when their numbers dropped about 4 percent from the previous year to 68 million passengers.
Overall, the agency’s commercial airports — which, in addition to Kennedy and LaGuardia, include Newark Liberty and Stewart international airports — hit an all-time record of 111.6 million passengers, surpassing the previous record set in 2007.
Port Authority officials hailed the news and lauded the economic impact the increase in air travellers will have on the region.
“While the effects of the recession linger for far too many people, we are pleased at the continued growth in passengers at our airports, which means great news on a host of related fronts, but especially for direct and indirect job creation, and our regional economy,” Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye said.
According to the agency, the airports account for about 450,000 jobs in the region and approximately $63 billion in economic activity.
The airports are, however, in need of improvements to keep up with the growing demand, and while they are not the country’s most delayed airports, they could do better.
According to the federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 77 percent of departures at JFK left on-time last year, ranking the airport 20th, although the bureau only tracks domestic flights. At LaGuardia, 78 percent of departures left on time last year, ranking the airport 18th in the country.
In 2011, the Regional Plan Association estimated that demand for passenger volumes at the region’s airports would reach 150 million by 2030 if the capacity were available and made several recommendations to increase capacity, including adding a new runway at JFK.
While the Port Authority has made no official announcement on that particular recommendation, it has overseen the expansion of JFK’s Terminal 4 and is working on an expansion and renovation of LaGuardia’s central terminal.
Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Deborah Gramiccioni said the airports’ newest numbers highlight the importance of increased investments.
“These numbers illustrate the importance of our continued investments to deliver the improvements our passengers demand, including rebuilt runways and high-speed taxiways to alleviate congestion and delays, and terminal improvements to ease travel for our customers,” she said.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.