How are we doing?

The Tucson airport ranked near the bottom of comparable airports with 4.0 seats per capita available annually in 2017. The graph below highlights the substantial differences between hub and non-hub airports. For example, in 2017 Las Vegas was the top-ranking hub airport in our comparison region with 25.3 seats per capita. The top-ranking non-hub airport, San Diego, had only 8.1 seats per capita. Hub airports have a considerably higher number of annual seats per capita, and departures per day, in order to accommodate connecting passengers. The number of seats per capita for the Tucson airport declined during the past 18 years, from a high of 6.3 in 2000 to a low of 4.0 in 2017, a 36.5% decrease. 

Why is it important?

Annual seats per capita and departures per day are important determinants of an airport’s financial health, regional economic impact, and the availability of air transportation offered. Measures such as annual seats and departures per day are determined by the airlines and are often not controlled by the airport. The number of available airline seats and departures at non-hub airports is driven by local demand and competing airports in the same region. Airline route planning is an important factor in the number of available airline seats and departures at hub airports.

How do we compare?

The Tucson airport ranked near the bottom of the non-hub airports in 2017 with 4.0 seats per capita available annually. The Tucson airport is comparable to the San Antonio airport, which offered slightly more seats per capita annually at 4.5. Phoenix-Mesa, a relatively new airport, had only 0.4 seats per capita available annually in 2017, while San Diego had the most seats of the non-hub airports at 8.1.

The Tucson airport ranked in the middle of all non-hub airports in 2017 with an average of 53 departures per day, a significant decline from 2007 when the average was 78. San Diego far exceeded the other non-hub airports in 2017 with an average of 258 departures per day, while Phoenix-Mesa average only 15 departures per day.  

What are the key trends?

The Tucson airport, between 2000 and 2005, posted a slight increase in seats per capita, followed by a sharp decline during the Great Recession. Following the Great Recession, the Tucson airport substantially increased the number of seats available per capita between 2009 and 2010, by nearly 19 percentage points. The number of seats per capita steadily declined at the Tucson airport since the initial recovery in 2010 until 2016 when there was a 9.8 percentage point increase. The Phoenix area airport, Phoenix Sky Harbor, followed a similar growth pattern as the Tucson airport, while Phoenix-Mesa, a new airport, posted wide fluctuations in seats per capita during the same time period.   

How is it measured?

Annual seats per capita represents the total number of seats inbound and outbound available per capita each year. Departures per day are the daily number of flights taking off from an airport. The Volaire Aviation consulting group provided the data. Per capita measures are calculated using the population of the metropolitan area where the airport resides.