Despite December dip, Mitchell Airport traffic ends 2021 up 72%

Milwaukee Mitchell airport.

Passenger traffic at Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport declined in December, but the airport ended the year with more than 4.5 million passengers, a 72% increase from 2020.

Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic severely limited traffic at airports. Mitchell’s traffic in 2021 was about 66% of its pre-pandemic levels, which nearly reached 6.9 million in 2019.

In December alone, Mitchell served 443,855 passengers, down from 448,189 in November and more than 466,000 in October. The number of passengers traveling through Mitchell climbed steadily in the first half of the year, peaking at 472,422 in July. After dips in August and September, it reached a second peak in October.

December’s traffic total was slightly less than 79% of the total from 2019, a drop from 85% of the 2019 level in November. Looking at the average from 2015 through 2019, November’s traffic total in 2021 was 82.9% of pre-pandemic levels and December’s was 83.7%.

For the entire fourth quarter, Mitchell was at 82.5% of its pre-pandemic five-year average.

Mitchell’s recovery lags slightly behind other airports, according to Bureau of Transportation Statistics data. For October, the most recent data available, the domestic traffic out of all airports and all major airports was 86.4% of 2019 levels.

Traffic out of O’Hare and Midway in Chicago, the two biggest competitors for Milwaukee-area passengers, was at 83.4% and 82.2% of 2019 respectively. Mitchell was at 79.7% of its 2019 traffic levels in October.

Minneapolis-St. Paul was at 76.6% of its 2019 level for domestic passengers flying out of its airport in October.

In Wisconsin, Dane County Regional Airport and Green Bay Austin Straubel International Airport were both at about 77.5% of their 2019 traffic level.

Appleton International Airport, which has seen a number of new flights added by American, Airlines, Allegiant and United Airlines, is an outlier. It has surpassed its 2019 level for passengers flying out of the airport every month since July, a combined 7.7% increase.

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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