Jan 29, 2024 - News

Cleveland airport traffic nearly back to pre-pandemic levels

A sign at the entrance to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport

Photo: Michael Francis McElroy/Getty Images

Passenger traffic at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport has now almost fully returned to pre-pandemic levels and is poised for big growth in 2024 with the addition of new routes.

Driving the news: The airport last week released its passenger data from 2023, showing a significant year-over-year increase.

Why it matters: Hopkins is the largest and busiest airport in Ohio. Increased passenger traffic can boost the local economy and is vital for the airport's finances as it pursues an extensive terminal modernization plan.

  • That project, which is scheduled to break ground in 2025, will be funded by "non-aviation-related revenues" at Hopkins — concessions, parking, carrier rents and landing fees — and federal grants.

By the numbers: 9.9 million passengers traveled through Hopkins in 2023, up 13.5% from 8.7 million passengers in 2022.

  • Several months — September, October and November — saw higher numbers of passengers than the same months in 2019, the final full year before the pandemic.

What they're saying: Bryant Francis, Cleveland's director of port control, said he and his leadership team are meeting with airlines to pitch new and expanded service from Hopkins and suggested that new routes would be forthcoming.

  • "We have a great story to share with airlines about Northeast Ohio and its air travel market," he said.

Catch up quick: Aer Lingus launched its nonstop flight to Dublin in May, the first transatlantic flight from Cleveland since 2018.

  • Alaska Airlines' flight to Seattle began in 2022.
  • Frontier Airlines last year announced a flight to Montego Bay, Jamaica that will begin in March.

The latest: Two low-cost carriers — Frontier and Sun Country Airlines — announced direct flights to Minneapolis beginning this summer.

The intrigue: Cleveland Scene spotted in a Costa Rican English-language newspaper that a direct flight from Cleveland to San Jose, Costa Rica, could be in the offing this year as well.

What's next: Hopkins forecasts that 2024 passenger traffic will surpass 2019.

The bottom line: Once the bathrooms are renovated in 2025, there will be yet another reason to fly.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to show Alaska Airlines' direct flight to Seattle began in 2022 (not in 2023) and Frontier Airlines' flight to Jamaica will begin this year (not last year).

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