TAMPA - Fewer seats provided by Delta Air Lines and other carriers seeking to cut expenses contributed to the second consecutive monthly passenger decline at Tampa International Airport compared with a year ago.
Tampa International's 1.6 percent decline to 949,882 departing passengers in March was less severe than the nationwide decline of 2.4 percent, according to an airport report comparing year-ago figures.
"It is a capacity issue," Tampa International Airport Director Louis Miller said Monday. "Delta, the airport's second-busiest carrier, offered 33 percent fewer seats a day in March."
Some carriers have increased capacity in recent months, helping to offset Delta's cuts, Miller said.
Continental Airlines, Southwest Airlines, JetBlue Airways and AirTran Airways each reported passenger gains higher than 10 percent at Tampa International in March.
"I predict April will show growth, although not an overwhelming amount," Miller said.
He expects the airport will reach its annual fiscal budget projection of 2.5 percent growth for the 12-month period that ends in September.
The airport is 1.6 percent ahead of the previous fiscal year through March in numbers of departing passengers.
"Fares are going up, but that has less impact right now than capacity," Miller said about the declining passenger trends in February and March. Also, Easter falling in April this year had an effect on travel, he said.
Southwest remained the airport's busiest carrier with 22.8 percent of the passengers in March. Delta was second with 15 percent, followed by US Airways with 10.7 percent, American Airlines with 9.7 percent and Continental Airlines with 7.2 percent.
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After 29 consecutive months of record growth, the number of passengers departing Tampa International Airport declined 0.4 percent to 749,600 last month.
The airport broke the 19 million mark with a 9.6 percent gain over 2004.
The U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics also said Atlanta Hartsfield remains the nation's busiest airport by a comfortable margin over No. 2 Chicago O'Hare.
Southwest gained shares from US Airways, United and Delta and cruised safely into the spot left vacant by AirTran.