2016 Tucson Airport Passenger Growth Was Most Since 2007


Airline passengers using Tucson International Airport grew by 3.4% to almost 3.3 million in 2016. It was the largest increase at the airport since 2007.

The October launches of new nonstop flights to New York on American Airlines and into Mexico on Aeromar played a major role in the upturn at the airport. October, November and December were three of the four busiest months of the year, exceeded only by the historically strong month of March.

The passenger numbers were among the highlights of the year delivered Monday to members of the Tucson Airport Authority during their annual meeting.

Airline 2016 Passengers 2016 Market Share 2015 Passengers Year-Over-Year Change Year-Over-Year % Change
Aeromar 2,411 0.1% +2,411
Alaska 147,026 4.5% 140,518 +6,508 +4.6%
American 1,238,199 37.7% 1,273,837 -35,638 -2.8%
Delta 456,085 13.9% 358,436 +97,649 +27.2%
Southwest 996,586 30.3% 998,102 -1,516 -0.1%
United 445,347 13.5% 407,317 +38,030 +9.3%
Totals 3,285,654 3,178,210 +107,444 +3.4%

In their speeches, both TAA Board Chairman Tony Finley and TAA President and CEO Bonnie Allin encouraged authority members to “be ambassadors and champions,” as Finley put it, for the new flights.

Allin said, “A year ago the New York and Mexico routes were two of TAA’s top priorities. They still are. Just because the flights have started, our work is not over, it has just begun. It’s now more important than ever to make certain they are a success.”

She, too, encouraged the TAA membership “to take every possible opportunity to promote these flights and ask the businesses and people in our region to fill the seats. It is now more important than ever, use it or lose it.”

Board Chairman Finley listed TAA accomplishments achieved in 2016:

  • Raytheon Missile Systems agreement to allow for the company’s expansion at TUS
  • Tucson International Airport’s lease is extended with the City of Tucson for an additional 25 years to October 14, 2098.
  • Bombardier celebrated 40th anniversary at TUS, noting that the company has continued to grow adding hundreds of jobs in recent years
  • Signing lease agreements with Aerovation and the Transportation Security Administration to lease vacant buildings.
  • Extending leases for two Fixed Base Operators, Premier Aviation and Million Air.
  • Starting construction on the “A Brighter TUS” terminal renovation; this will allow for the expansion of the TSA checkpoints along with new and additional concessions.
  • Construction on the second and final phase of installation of solar canopies over the parking spaces in the parking lots in front of the terminal building that will reduce TUS usage of outside energy by an estimated 68-70%.
  • Completion by the Federal Aviation Administration of its new 252-foot air traffic control tower at Tucson International Airport.
  • Marketing achievements, including the launch of new websites for Tucson International Airport, Ryan Airfield and the TAA, as well as advertising campaigns.

Allin looked ahead to what can be expected in 2017:

  • Airline passengers will see fewer of the small regional jets, which will account for 9% of daily departures in April, down from 20% in April 2016. An added benefit of using larger aircraft is that they have first class cabins. First class seat capacity is up 35% from a year ago.
  • The ongoing consolidation of operations at American Airlines from its merger with US Airways will be a matter to watch. Sky Harbor in Phoenix was on pace to report a decline in passenger numbers for 2016, largely as a result of reductions by American.
  • Destinations that are priorities for new airline service are Washington, D.C.; Albuquerque; Canada; additional service into Mexico.
  • Lyft and Uber, the mobile app ride services that started service at TUS in 2016, are continuing to grow and garner positive customer feedback. Contracts were extended.
  • Progress continues on land agreements and regulatory requirements for airfield safety enhancements that will include relocation of the general aviation runway and changes to taxiways. An Environmental Impact Study is due to be completed in late 2018.
  • Projects at Ryan Airfield that coincide with the widening of Ajo Highway include construction of a new perimeter road and fencing for improved security as well as renovation to reopen a new restaurant at the airport.

Lastly, Allin noted that November 28, 2017, marks the 90th anniversary of American Airlines service to Tucson. And 2018 will market the TAA’s 70th anniversary.