ST. LOUIS — In the first quarter of 2022, nearly a quarter of the nation's busiest airports matched or eclipsed their domestic flight totals from the first quarter of 2019.
But flights at St. Louis Lambert International Airport were still down about 22%, according to data from aviation analytics company Cirium. That's about 4,400 fewer flights at Lambert in this year's first quarter compared with the same period in pre-Covid 2019.
Over 20,200 flights operated out of Lambert in the first quarter of 2019, while nearly 15,800 flights served the local airport in the first three months this year. Total seat count also was down from nearly 2.29 million in the first quarter of 2019 to about 1.96 million in the first quarter this year, a drop of about 14%.
Lambert's first-quarter 2022 domestic flight total was 78% of its 2019 total. These stats rank Lambert as the nation's 83rd busiest airport based on domestic flight recovery data.
For the nation’s 100 busiest airports, the average airport’s first-quarter 2022 domestic flight total was 91% of its 2019 total.
Outside of the impact on airlines and airports, the statistics reveal which metro areas are reaping the other rewards of air travel's comeback: hotel stays, dining dollars and other accompanying economic activity.
Top airports for Covid-19 recovery
Sun-soaked or mountain leisure destinations once again set the pace for the airline industry’s recovery in the first quarter, building on a trend that took hold in 2021. Florida and California led the way, combining for 11 of the top 25 airports based on domestic flight recovery compared to 2019.
Florida’s Sarasota Bradenton International Airport led the way. The airport had 5,027 domestic flights in the first quarter, up from 2,185 in the first quarter of 2019. Airlines have significantly ramped up service to the airport, adding routes and increasing flight frequency. The airport is getting a $72 million facelift to accommodate the increased traffic.
Sarasota Bradenton was followed by Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport and Miami International Airport.
Miami International Airport, a key hub for American Airlines Group Inc. (NYSE: AAL) was the only major hub among the 10 airports with the top recoveries.
Airports with slower recoveries from Covid-19
At the other end of the spectrum was Bethel Airport (58% of 2019 flight totals) in Alaska, Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (65%), Portland International Jetport (66%) in Oregon and Philadelphia International Airport (69%).
Philadelphia is another American hub, and it wasn’t the only hub near the bottom of the list.
United Airlines Holdings Inc. (NYSE: UAL) hub San Francisco International Airport (71%), Delta Air Lines Inc. (NYSE: DAL) hubs Los Angeles International Airport (76%) and Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (77%) and Chicago Midway International Airport (76%), a key cog in the network for Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE: LUV), were also near the bottom.
For a list of the top 25 airports for COVID-19 recovery and what's ahead for airports, read the full story on the St. Louis Business Journal website.