Passenger Traffic at Philadelphia International Airport Still Down Over 40% from Pre-Pandemic Levels

Feb. 15, 2022

Feb. 15—Passenger traffic levels at Philadelphia International Airport reached 19,638,387 in 2021 as the travel industry continued to climb back from pandemic lows, according to annual data the airport released Monday.

Last year's passenger volume was a 65.5% increase over the 11,865,006 travelers who passed through PHL in 2020.

But it was still 40.5% lower than traffic in 2019, when PHL saw a record high 33,018,886 passengers — before the spread of the coronavirus and related shutdown orders around the world caused travel demand to plummet.

"We are still a few years away from a full recovery from the pandemic; however, our passenger volume total from last year makes us optimistic as we start 2022," PHL CEO Chellie Cameron said in a statement. "This year, our airline partners are expected to offer service to 91 domestic and 31 international destinations, including four Canadian, 13 transatlantic and 14 Caribbean/Mexican destinations."

Through 2021, domestic passenger traffic was up 66.4% compared with 2020, making a stronger recovery than international traffic, which increased 50.9% from 2020 levels.

Although passenger levels took a sharp downturn in 2020, cargo at PHL continued to grow from 2019 to 2021, and officials are planning a $1.2 billion expansion of the airport's cargo program that will add 136 acres and 800,000 square feet of building space in coming years.

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In 2021, the combination of air freight and air mail increased to 643,138 tons, 3.2% more than the 623,127.5 tons in 2020 and nearly 5.9% above total freight in 2019.

"The continued increase in air freight and air mail handling at PHL year-over-year for the past several years shows why we must expand our cargo capacity now," Cameron said. "The impact this program will have on our airport, our region's workforce, and our local economy is exponential."

PHL is set to receive $30.7 million from the federal infrastructure law in 2022, and airport officials have said part of that funding will go toward the cargo program.

Funding for the entire planned expansion is expected to come from a mix of public and private sources, such as companies that will use the cargo facilities or developers of the site. So far PHL has had "exploratory discussions with potential cargo users," a spokesperson said.

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