Portland Int'l Airport Saw Record Number of Passengers in 2005

New carriers, an improving economy and an increased number of flights contributed to Portland International Airport serving a record 13.8 million passengers in 2005.

The yearly total surpasses the previous mark of 13.7 million set in 2000 and is a 6.5 percent increase in passengers from 2004.

The record might be short-lived, though, as airport officials expect to see even stronger travel numbers this year.

"The trend has been steady and constant growth, and we expect that trend to continue into '06," said Steve Johnson, airport spokesman.

Johnson said several times in 2005 the airport saw monthly records set.

The year's highlights included the May arrival of low-fare carrier JetBlue Airways, which launched nonstop flights from Portland to New York. Mexicana Airlines increased the number of its nonstop flights linking Portland to Guadalajara, Mexico. Northwest Airlines marked its first year of nonstop service to Tokyo.

Horizon Airlines handled the largest number of passengers through November with 2.3 million people, an 18.6 percent increase from the previous November.

The airport only had air carrier statistics through November available Wednesday.

The annual numbers are expected to be released in the coming days.

Through November, the airport had seen a 4.5 percent increase in flight operations, which totaled 14,944 flights. That compares to 14,302 in 2004.

Horizon's parent company, Alaska, wasn't far behind with 2.2 million customers. But that was a 3.5 percent drop from November 2004.

The continual rise in airline passenger traffic could actually make 2006 the year the airline industry begins to gain financial altitude, something that hasn't happened since 2000, when the industry generated a $2.9 billion net profit.

John Heimlich, vice president and chief economist for the Air Transport Association, wrote in his industry outlook that if fuel costs dip and domestic fares rise airlines could pare losses from the $10 billion expected for 2005 to $1 billion to $2 billion this year.

If that occurs, Heimlich sees industrywide profits in 2007.

"It will take years of meaningful profit margins to pay off the incremental debt accumulated since 2000, but for the first time in may years, things are indeed looking up," Heimlich wrote.

Jonathan Nelson covers PDX for The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-759-8013 or jonathan.nelson@columbian.com.

Update

Previously: Portland International Airport saw record passenger traffic of 13.7 million in 2000.

What's new: The airport surpassed that figure in 2005, with 13.8 million passengers.

What's next: Airline travel should increase this year, and analysts are cautiously optimistic that the industry could see a profit in the coming years.



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