3 Floridian Airports Flourish With Huge Growth From 2019

Three Florida airports have grown spectacularly this summer. The Panhandle airports of Panama City, Destin Fort Walton Beach, and Pensacola have collectively added 2.1 million seats versus summer 2019 (S19) – an increase of 52%. With growth between 39% and 70%, they’re among the state’s best-performing airports by this simple measure.

Delta Air Lines Boeing 737
Although Delta has only grown moderately at Panama City this summer compared with other airlines, it uses the B737-800, B717, A319, A321, A320, and CRJ-900 on its sole route from Atlanta. In S19, only the MD-88, MD-90, and B717 were used. Photo: Getty Images.

Not all Florida airports have grown, though

In contrast to these Panhandle airports, Florida as a whole has risen by 4%, analyzing schedules supplied by carriers to data experts OAG reveals. Of course, in a pandemic that is exceptional, and most places worldwide would very much like to have it.

Florida has been pulled down by reductions at Ft Lauderdale (-4.0%), Jacksonville (-22.0%), Orlando International (-3.0%), Orlando Sanford (-8.0%), Tampa (-2.5%), and various smaller airports. Breeze’s Tampa entry may help marginally, while Ft Lauderdale has lost Frontier and Emirates to Miami.

Panhandle airport growth
Pensacola remains the largest airport serving the Panhandle, although the gap with Destin has narrowed. Pensacola has grown by 38% (+654,000 seats added) from two additional airlines (Spirit and Boutique Air) and expansion by others (notably Southwest, American, and United). The airport’s route network has expanded from 20 to 29. Image: Simple Flying using data from OAG.

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What Florida airports have seen increases?

Miami has grown strongly this summer (+5.0%), up by 696,000 seats, because of the above but more importantly from the entry of Southwest, JetBlue, Spirit, and more.

The South Florida airport joins others across the state in reporting good growth, notably Sarasota (+120%), Key West (+109%), Fort Myers (+47%), Punta Gorda (+14%), Tampa St Pete (+5%) – and the three Panhandle airports.

Allegiant A320
Allegiant is Destin’s largest carrier this summer. It is one of five, the same number in S19. But while Silver Airways left, Southwest entered with a decent presence. Destin has added 792,000 seats (+56%). Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Up by 70%: the case of Panama City

Panama City, or Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, has the catchy website address of www.iflybeaches.com; this has certainly appealed to those keen on a vacation during COVID. The same four airlines – Southwest, Delta, American, United – serve the airport now as they did in S19.

While Delta has grown by 5% (it has only one route to Atlanta), ensuring it remains the airport’s second-largest operator, the others have all expanded significantly.

American and United have both more than doubled their offerings, while Southwest has added the most seats. Of course, Panama City’s rise was from a lower base than the other Panhandle airports, so its percentage rise must be considered in that context.

United A319
Upgauging is an important and less risky way of growing. At Panama City, United uses the A319, Embraer 175, and ERJ-145. In S19: only regional jets. Photo: Aero Icarus via Wikimedia.

Southwest has almost doubled in size

Southwest, which inaugurated Panama City in 2010, has nearly doubled in size (+92%) with 207,000 extra seats. This is from adding Atlanta, Columbus, and Indianapolis, which takes its network from the Panhandle airport to 12. It has also grown capacity on most existing routes.

Are you planning to visit Florida this year? Let us know in the comments.