SRQ passenger traffic counts continue to soar

October total up 72%, compared to pre-pandemic October 2019 number

Passengers aplenty are seen in the SRQ terminal. Image courtesy Sarasota Bradenton International Airport

“Up, Up and Away” may have been the title of the debut album of the 1960s pop group the 5th Dimension, but it also is a phrase that describes the passenger traffic at the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (SRQ) over the past months.

In October, the number of travelers in and out of the airport near the Sarasota County/Manatee County line totaled 275,359, airport staff noted in a recent news release. The figure was 148% higher than the October 2020 count of 110,883 passengers, when SRQ was dealing with greater impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, the release added.

Compared to the October 2019, pre-pandemic total of 160,327 passengers, the count for this October is higher by 72%, the release says.

“The number of passengers traveling through SRQ year-to-date totals 2,494,632,” the release also points out.

SRQ previously had announced that the number of people flying in and out of the facility through September of this year was 2,219,303.

During remarks that were part of a Nov. 2 Sarasota County Commission hearing, Bob Spencer, vice chair of the SRQ Airport Authority, said that the airport “is on track to exceed 3.2 million passengers” in 2021.

He noted that SRQ consistently counted between 1.2 million and 1.4 million passengers annually until 2018, when Allegiant began service out of Sarasota. Then, in 2019, he continued, with the passenger total nearing the 2-million mark, “SRQ was the fastest growing airport in the United States for 2019 and for the first three months of 2020, until the pandemic.”

Robert Spencer. Image courtesy SRQ Airport Authority

Even with the ongoing COVID-19 situation, Spencer continued, the airport has continued to add new air service, including Southwest Airlines, Sun Country and Avelo.

(Within the past week — Nov. 19 — the airport announced that Allegiant had begun its new nonstop route to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Allegiant also will launch new nonstop flights to Tulsa, Okla., beginning Dec. 15, that release added.)

Spencer pointed out to the County Commission that SRQ has 11 airlines with 52 nonstop destinations.

Based on projections by those carriers, he continued, the airport expects to serve 4 million travelers in 2022.

He also noted that, in July, “SRQ set a record with over 326,000 passengers, and by August … we set an all-time record” of 2 million passengers.

“The Sarasota-Bradenton area is no longer our little secret,” Spencer said.

Additionally, like other airport officials around the country, Rick Piccolo, president and CEO of SRQ, had noted in an earlier release that SRQ was expecting heavy passenger traffic for the Thanksgiving holiday period, and he was encouraging travelers to be patient and allow themselves plenty of time to catch their flights.

In related news this week, Piccolo announced that, on Nov. 12, SRQ “received a renewal of the Airport Health Accreditation Certificate from the Director General of Airports Council International World (ACI).”

“Receiving ACI’s Airport Health Accreditation validates our commitment to providing passengers with a clean and safe traveling environment when using SRQ,” Piccolo said in that release. “Since the start of the pandemic,” he continued, “we have worked with our tenants and the TSA [Transportation Security Administration] to implement multiple layers of cleaning and safety measures.”

Piccolo noted, “We upgraded our restrooms to a fully touchless experience. We implemented numerous measures throughout the terminal, including plastic shields at all customer service counters, touchless hand sanitizer stations, and courtesy thermal temperature scanners. We doubled the size of our janitorial workforce and implemented strict cleaning protocols. You also see employees, tenants, and passengers wearing protective face coverings to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 per TSA guidelines.”

This is one of the rotating banners on the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport’s website, as seen on Oct. 26. Image courtesy SRQ

Piccolo added, “We understand the importance and necessity of these measures and plan to continue dedicating funds and resources toward these efforts even after the pandemic has receded.”