Passenger traffic at Mitchell International rose 2.8% in 2018

Was third best year ever for local passengers at the airport

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Passenger traffic at Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee rose 2.8 percent in 2018 to nearly 7.1 million, continuing a slow, steady climb since 2015.

It was the ninth time since 2005, but the first since 2012, that the airport has served more than 7 million passengers.

Virtually all of the passengers traveling through Mitchell International in 2018 were going to or from Milwaukee, rather than laying over to get to another destination. The 7,014,551 local passenger number was the third highest ever in the airport’s history.

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“That really shows the demand for flights to and from Milwaukee,” said airport spokesman Harold Mester.

Mitchell had higher numbers of layover passengers when the airport was a hub for Midwest Airlines and other airlines routed traffic through the airport. That’s no longer the case today, especially after the demise of Midwest Airlines.

“Ninety-nine percent of our traffic nowadays is locally originated,” Mester said.

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The only years that Mitchell had more local passengers than in 2018 were the airport’s record traffic years of more than 9 million passengers in 2010 and 2011 when AirTran, Frontier and Southwest engaged in an aggressive battle for market share at the airport offering an unsustainably high number of flights to numerous destinations.

After the 2010 and 2011 bubble burst at the airport, service there was cut significantly and AirTran was acquired by Southwest in 2014.

Passenger traffic at the airport sank to 6.5 million in 2013 and has been on a mostly slow by steady rise since then.

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In recent years, as passenger traffic has slowly increased again at Mitchell, several airlines have added service from Milwaukee to new destinations and additional flights to existing destinations. Airlines serving the airport now offer nonstop flights to more than 40 destinations.

“Our airline partners have added seats to great destinations like Boston, New York and Seattle, while new destinations like Salt Lake City, Houston-Hobby (Airport) and Dallas-Love (Field Airport) were added to our route map in the last year,” Mitchell International airport director Brian Dranzik said. “This sustained passenger growth reflects the stability of the big four U.S. carriers and the competitive nature of the Milwaukee air travel market.”

Airlines filled 81.8 percent of their seats on planes flying to and from Mitchell in 2018, up from 80.7 percent in 2017.

“Our low airfares, affordable parking and easy travel experience continue to be a big draw for passengers from throughout Wisconsin and northern Illinois,” said Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele.

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