Here are 5 travel trends from Milwaukee's Mitchell Airport, and what they could mean for 2023

Five takeaways from the Mitchell International Airport 2022 passenger statistics report, and what it could mean for travel in 2023.
Five takeaways from the Mitchell International Airport 2022 passenger statistics report, and what it could mean for travel in 2023.

Traffic at Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport continued to move closer to pre-pandemic levels in 2022 with passengers taking 5.4 million flights — almost 1 million more than in 2021.

And while that's about 1.5 million flights away from matching 2019 numbers, officials are confident that 2023 will bring Mitchell closer to reaching traffic not seen since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here are five takeaways from Mitchell's 2022 passenger report and what they could mean for travel this year.

Mitchell's new routes to East Coast were popular

The increase in flights at Mitchell was partly due to a bounceback from travelers who had opted not to travel in previous years because of COVID-19.

Growth was also due to a handful of new routes providing service to the East Coast.

JetBlue launched new service from Milwaukee in March of 2022 that included daily nonstop flights to and from Boston and New York's JFK airport.

Delta also added daily service from Milwaukee to JFK. This means flyers from Milwaukee have direct flight options to each of the three major airports in the New York City area.

Weather, Southwest meltdown led to a slower December than 2021

December was one of the only months that didn’t exceed 2021 numbers — it had 28,804 fewer flights than the previous year.

Airport officials have said this was in large part because of weather concerns that halted flights across the county during December of 2022.

Moreover, December saw Southwest, the most popular airline at Mitchell, have a system meltdown that pushed many holiday flights into the early days of 2023. This was also a likely reason why numbers in December were not as high as expected.

Southwest's grip on the Milwaukee market is slightly loosening

As in previous years, Southwest Airlines claimed the title of “most popular airline at Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport.”

But the airline's share of the market did fall from 41% to 36%.

American Airlines, the third most popular airline at Mitchell, also saw an incremental decline in market share.

Delta and other airlines continue are seeing more Milwaukee passengers

With Southwest's grip on the Milwaukee Market loosening slightly, 2022 saw growth for almost every major airline at Mitchell.

Delta, the second most popular airline in Milwaukee, benefitted the most. After adding service to the East Coast, its share of the Milwaukee market rose 3 percentage points; it now accounts for almost a fourth of all service at Mitchell.

Jet Blue was introduced to Milwaukee in 2022, and in its first year accounted for 2% of the market.

The number of passengers flying Spirit Airlines in Milwaukee doubled from 2021 to 2022, and the airline's market share grew to nearly 6% — despite the airline announcing it would be suspending direct flights to Los Angeles, Phoenix and Tampa Bay.

More routes, big Milwaukee events and increased comfort with air travel should bring more passengers in 2023

Airport officials have said 2023 will likely exceed 2022's numbers as flyers continue to return to airports after taking a break during COVID-19.

New services are also expected to bolster numbers, including:

  • Southwest: Daily service to Sarasota from March 9-April 10

  • Southwest: Daily service to Kansas City resuming July 11

  • Sun Country Airlines: Weekend service to Minneapolis beginning May 5

  • Delta: Seasonal service to Salt Lake City resuming June 5

Milwaukee events should also draw inbound flight passengers to Milwaukee, like the return of the Great Lakes cruise season, Harley-Davidson’s 120th Anniversary Homecoming, the USA Triathlon Nationals, various sporting events and Northwestern Mutual’s annual meeting.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Milwaukee's Mitchell Airport 2022 travel trends