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Indy Airport Ahead Of Other Airports In Passenger Traffic Recovery

More than 7.1 million passengers traveled through the Indianapolis International Airport (IND) in 2021, an increase in overall passenger traffic by 75 percent compared to 2020.

“It’s a promising development and we’re outpacing our peer airports in Columbus, Milwaukee, and Pittsburgh in passenger traffic recovery,” said Mario Rodriguez, executive director of the Indianapolis Airport Authority.

The fourth quarter of 2021 saw the most passenger traffic, with that increase attributed to fall break travel in October and holiday travel in November and December. Most of the increase in passenger traffic was due to pent-up demand from leisure travelers.

“The pandemic has transformed the make-up of air travel,” said Rodriguez. “Pre-pandemic, 45 percent of air travel was business and 55 percent was leisure. In 2021, that breakdown was 18 percent business and 82 percent leisure.”

More than 22 new nonstop flights launched out of the Indy airport in 2021 to 10 new destinations, along with two new airlines – Sun Country and Contour – joining the roster of airlines that fly out of Indianapolis. Of those total new flights, nine were destined for Florida cities.

In addition, nonstop flights to Cancun, Ft. Myers, Los Angeles, New York, Boston, and San Francisco resumed in 2021 after halts in early 2020 due to the pandemic.

Along with passenger increases in 2021, air cargo totals also increased significantly last year.

“Both cargo and landed weight in 2021 were the highest we’ve seen in the airport’s history,” said Marsha Stone, IAA senior director of commercial enterprise.

The Indy airport recorded 1.3 million tons of total cargo in 2021 and 5.7 million tons of landed weight.

“Driven by consumer demand for shipped goods, FedEx processed the highest volume of cargo in their history at IND in 2021,” said Stone, also noting that FedEx continues to expand its operations as part of a multi-year $1.5 billion investment in facilities and infrastructure at the Indy airport.

The Indy airport started out 2022 with the excitement of the College Football Playoff Championship which drew more than 100,000 fans to the city, and spurred Delta Air Lines to offer one-time flights to and from southern cities such as Birmingham, Huntsville and Savannah.

And there’s more big opportunities on the horizon, with Visit Indy and Indiana Sports Corp having booked 2022 and beyond already with prominent events.

“Indy 500 is back home again, with fans in the stands this year, to name one” said Stone. “We also have the NBA All-Star Game in 2024, which is rescheduled from 2021. Indy is an award-winning city when it comes to drawing top events. And big events feed tourism, which attracts both business and leisure travel, and that’s good for our airline partners as well as our community.”

Indy was named the Best Places to Go 2021, World’s Greatest Places of 2021 and Best Places to Travel in 2021 by Condé Nast Traveler, Time magazine and Travel + Leisure, respectively. Only New York City has been named to all three lists in the same year. “What we’ve seen in 2021 is what we anticipated we’d see – a start to the recovery,” said Rodriguez. “We said in 2020 that it would take about three years to fully rebound from this crisis. We anticipate that 2024 is the year we’ll see pre-pandemic passenger numbers, like we did in 2019, but the make-up of air travel will be different with leisure leading the air-travel trend and business being considerably less. That’s a transformational difference that will define the air travel industry going forward.”