Travel bans stop overseas traffic, push “inner hubs” on top 2020 US airports ranking

In the spotlight

The most visible effect of the Covid pandemic on US airports’ 2020 passenger statistics has been the gaining of positions in the Top 20 ranking by what we could define as the “inner hubs” of the Country, meaning those where overseas traffic has never been preponderant, if compared to domestic.

Therefore, international travel bans impacted them in a relative manner. On the other side, those hubs, situated mainly on the two coasts (Atlantic and Pacific) of the US, normally receiving a lot of international traffic, saw their numbers collapse compared to those registered in 2019, and their positioning in the Top 20 plunge.

Atlanta Hartsfield is Delta Airlines’ home (Wikimedia / redlegsfan21)

That said, Atlanta Hartsfield (ATL) deserves kudos for keeping the top position among US airports (and worldwide) even in such a troubled year: with 42,918,685 passengers, it contained the loss of traffic at a decent – 61% considering the 110,531,300 travellers processed in 2019.

Behind ATL, there was an authentic revolution in the hierarchies. Established powerhouses like Los Angeles International (LAX) and New York Kennedy (JFK) lost many positions. These are the two hubs in the US where international traffic had been a key factor for total numbers in 2019: 12,720,392 out of 43,362,936 passengers enplaned (29%) at LAX and 34,317,281 out of the total 62,551,072 (55%) at JFK.

Overseas carriers use Bradley Terminal at LAX (Wikimedia / Gyrostat)

International travel bans cancelled almost completely overseas arrivals and departures from March until the end of the year, resulting in LAX losing three positions among US airports, from second to fifth place, and JFK as many as nine positions, from sixth to fifteenth.

According to Los Angeles World Airports statistics, LAX processed a total of 28,779,527 travellers in 2020 (-68% if compared with 2019 numbers). Regarding JFK, as of March 21, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey had not published its airports’ 2020 figures yet, but a rather accurate esteem should position the airport’s traffic around the 16mln mark (around 75% less than 2019), slightly more that its New Jersey sibling Newark Liberty (EWR) with some 15mln passengers (-66%).

A Jetblue A320 taxies in front of Manhattan skyline (Wikimedia / Rickmauser45)

Conversely, those hubs interconnecting mainly domestic traffic, gained positions in the nation’s ranking, while at the same time containing per cent losses: Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) climbed from fourth to second position with 39,364,990 passengers (-48%) and Denver International (DEN) from fifth to third with 33,741,129 (-52%). Charlotte (CLT) did even better, from eleventh to sixth recording 27,205,082 passengers (-46%) and Houston (IAH) made a real exploit passing from the fifteenth to the seventh spot overall with 24,690,222 passengers (-45%). Chicago O’Hare (ORD), the mid-America hub for those travelling east to west or west to east clinched the fourth spot (down one), but with 30,860,251 travellers it lost 64% of its traffic as a consequence of the many services cancelled from Europe, South America and Asia. The 2020 US airports Top 10 ranking is completed by Las Vegas (LAS) in eight position (up one) with 22,201,479 passengers, Phoenix (PHX) in ninth (up from thirteenth in 2019) with 21,928,708 and Orlando International (MCO), which confirmed its tenth spot with 21,617,803.

Fort Lauderdale is Florida’s third busiest airport (Wikimedia / formulanone)

The lower half of the US Top 20 is led by Seattle (SEA), which occupied the eight spot in 2019, followed by Miami International (MIA), Fort Lauderdale (FLL) up seven spots from 2019, San Francisco International (SFO) which lost seven positions in one year, New York JFK, Newark Liberty. Minneapolis (MSP) and Detroit (DTW) confirmed their seventeenth and eighteenth spots, respectively, while Boston (BOS), another hub with huge traffic from overseas, lost three positions (it was sixteenth in 2019). The last spot in the Top 20 was taken by the new entry Salt Lake City (SLC), another “inner-America” hub, which kicked out of the ranking a more international hub like Philadelphia (PHL) which before Covid had several services to and from Europe by American Airlines. (Photo header Wikimedia Commons / UserMattes)

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