Missouri's two largest airports have seen increase in air travel

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Missouri News Horizon
– Airline traffic at Missouri’s two largest airports has increased since last year, but has still not returned to its pre-economic crash levels.

According to newly released numbers from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the St. Louis-Lambert International Airport served 11.9 million passengers in the 12-month period ending in May of this year. That’s a roughly 0.8 percent increase in traffic over the previous year, making the St. Louis the 31st most trafficked airport in the country.

During that same time period, Kansas City International Airport – the nation’s 32nd busiest airport – saw 9.8 million passengers arrive and depart. It was an increase of 1.2 percent over the previous year.

But neither airport has rebounded to the same level of travel seen prior to the economic collapse in late 2008. For the 12-month period ending in May of that year, the St. Louis airport saw nearly 14 million passengers while Kansas City served 11.6 million.

It’s a trend reflected in airports across the country, according to David Smallen of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Smallen said that in an unstable economy, consumers are taking fewer trips and opting for less expensive forms of transportation.

During the month of May alone, U.S. airlines carried 63.8 million domestic and international passengers – a 3.9 percent increase over May 2010. However, that rate was still 3.3 percent below the May 2008 level.

As part of the upcoming legislative session, state lawmakers are poised to debate a $360 million tax-incentive deal for the St. Louis airport and surrounding areas, with the goal of transforming the former TWA hub into a central destination for international trade. In the past four years, freight traffic through the St. Louis airport has dropped steadily from 203 million pounds of cargo annually in 2007 to 166 million pounds for the 12-month ending in May of this year.