INDIANAPOLIS — The number of passengers flying in and out of Indianapolis International Airport grew in 2018, with a nonstop to Paris helping to drive a spike in international travel, more flights to the West Coast and growing demand for low-cost airlines.
The airport on Tuesday announced a record 9.4 million passengers last year — 620,000 more than in 2017 — amid forecasts for increased air travel nationwide.
Total flights were up 4 percent last year, the airport said.
“The writing was on the wall early on when we were seeing traffic escalating each quarter, and ultimately record-breaking volume across 11 months in 2018,” Mario Rodriguez, executive director of the Indianapolis Airport Authority, said.
International flights were up 28 percent. Rodriguez attributed the increase to Delta Airlines’ addition of of a nonstop flight to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport last May and Southwest adding flights to an existing Cancun route.
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“We saw a lot of international growth,” he said, noting that the Paris flight also handles cargo in the belly of the plane. “Overall, the passenger growth has been amazing.”
More than 60,000 international travelers moved through the airport, reflecting a 77 percent increase over 2017, according to airport figures.
The airport also saw the launch of more nonstop domestic routes last year to cities such as Charleston, South Carolina; Oakland; and Sarasota/Bradenton, Florida.
Southwest added flights to an existing Austin route, as did Frontier. Delta increased its domestic activity at the airport with the addition of flights to an existing Seattle route, and Frontier, which added more flights to San Diego, also reinstated two routes, to Philadelphia and Fort Myers, Florida.
“Our route map is really, really developed,” said Rodriguez, adding that the airport made West Coast connections a priority five years ago.
“It was extremely important to our tech community, ” he said. “We started out with one flight to San Francisco, and now we cover the entire West Coast, including Seattle.”
The airport expects the passenger counts to continue increasing this year before eventually tapering off. Spirit Airlines will establish service out of Indianapolis this spring with two daily nonstop flights to Las Vegas and Orlando. The airline also will launch a twice-weekly seasonal flight to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, this year.
Rodriguez said the airport is also seeking to establish a connection to Mexico City and, in the long term, the Asia-Pacific.
Nationally, U.S. airport volume is expected to grow at a rate of 2.4 percent through June, according to the U.S. Travel Association. Domestic travel is expected to grow at a slightly faster pace of 2.6 percent while international travel is expected to decelerate to 2 percent over the same period.