Through the first seven months of this year, more than 356,000 passengers flew on domestic airline flights from Fresno — about 9 percent more than through the same period last year, and on pace to post the highest annual passenger totals ever at Fresno Yosemite International Airport.
Data released this week by the U.S. Department of Transportation show that the increases in departures from Fresno came as air travel nationwide remained stagnant. About 377.2 million passengers flew on domestic flights between January and July — just one-tenth of a percent more than in the first seven months of 2012 in the U.S.
Fresno ranked 107th-busiest out of 817 airports.
In Fresno, June and July came close to breaking monthly records for the number of passengers boarding flights to destinations within the U.S.
Airlines reported 60,081 departing passengers in July, and 59,585 in June. Those were the second- and third-busiest months in more than a decade, just short of the 60,307 passengers in June 2006, before the nationwide recession stifled demand for air travel.
But the number of flights being operated by commercial airlines to and from Fresno is far fewer now than it was during the heady days of the mid-2000s.
Across the country, in a search for efficiency, the airline industry is flying larger aircraft that can carry more passengers, and that reality is being reflected in Fresno as well.
In the first seven months of 2005, for instance, more than 10,000 commercial flights departed from Fresno Yosemite International, carrying a total of 321,539 passengers. That compares to fewer than 7,500 flights through July 2013, but with almost 35,000 more passengers.
As a result, the flights that are taking off from Fresno are doing so with a higher proportion of their seats filled than ever.
Airlines offered more than 254 million seat-miles from Fresno through July 2013 (a single 1,000-mile flight by a 100-seat airliner accounts for 100,000 available seat miles). Almost 84 percent of those seat-miles were filled with passengers – a higher proportion for seven months than any previous year since 2002.
Among airlines serving Fresno, one company carried more than half of the departing passengers. SkyWest Airlines, which contracts to provide flights for United Express, Delta Connection, US Airways Express, American Eagle and Alaska Airlines — reported 184,000 passengers boarding between January and July. The remaining passengers were divided up among American Airlines, Mesa Air, Horizon Air, Allegiant Air, American Eagle and Frontier Airlines.
Los Angeles was the top destination for Fresno fliers over the past year, followed by Phoenix, Dallas-Fort Worth, Las Vegas and Denver.
The domestic figures don’t include international flights between Fresno and Guadalajara, Mexico, offered by Aeromexico and Volaris. Through the first four months of 2013, the two airlines combined to carry almost 20,000 passengers on their departing flights.