Southwest, American and United to add flights from booming Fresno airport. Here’s when

Several airlines serving Fresno Yosemite International Airport are planning to add flights to their schedules in 2023, potentially boosting passenger capacity beyond record figures just reported for 2022.

Airport administrators announced Monday that American Airlines currently offers three daily round trips between Fresno and Dallas-Fort Worth, but will boost that to four daily flights in February. Additionally, the airline will upgrade one of its flights in April to an Airbus A321 jetliner, which holds more passengers than the Boeing 737-800s currently flying the route, according to a news release.

Southwest Airlines will add a fourth daily round trip between Fresno and Las Vegas in July, airport officials said, providing a 25% boost to the airline’s capacity between the two cities.

And United Airlines, which has provided seasonal nonstop service between Fresno and Chicago, is anticipated to resume that route sometime this spring.

But another carrier, Alaska Airlines, is expected to drop its service between Fresno and Los Angeles by this summer, according to an analysis by airline service tracking website enilria.com.

As it was, more airline passengers flew to and from Fresno Yosemite International Airport in 2022 than in any previous year, according to new data released Monday by airport administrators.

Airlines serving the city-owned airport carried more than 2.1 million passengers aboard both domestic and international flights last year, up from 1.94 million in 2021 and breaking the previous record of 1.96 million passengers in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic decimated air travel nationwide in 2020.

The 2022 figures represent a 12% increase over 2021 and are more than double the 2020 passenger count of less than 1 million fliers.

“Fresno Yosemite International Airport continues to be a top performing airport in recovery and passenger growth spurred by our partner airlines meeting the air service demand for Central Valley travelers,” said Henry Thompson, director of aviation for the city of Fresno.

“With more travelers using FAT and choosing their hometown airport, Fresno is able to present a strong case to airline planners about expanded air service opportunities in our market,” Thompson added.

Reasons behind increased airline passengers

One of the biggest boosts to post-pandemic airline traffic to and from Fresno was the inauguration of service by Southwest Airlines to Las Vegas and Denver in April 2021. Southwest and other airlines have seen passenger growth as a result of pent-up demand following significant travel restrictions imposed in 2020 by the global COVID-19 pandemic, and that upswing continued in 2022.

The number of domestic and international flights serving Fresno was down in 2022 compared to 2019 and 2021. But the switch by some airlines to larger, more efficient aircraft translated into a higher number of passengers on flights to and from Fresno. Airline load factors – the percentage of seats filled on flights – was about 83% in 2022. That’s the highest rate since 2015, the airport reported.

Fresno’s passenger growth in 2022 was also faster than the nationwide average, ranking fourth in the U.S. Pacific Region and 13th nationwide.

“I am extremely proud to have one of the fastest growing airports in the nation,” Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer said in the release. “As our airport grows, so does our economy.”

Dyer said he is pleased with an airport terminal expansion project dubbed “FATforward,” a nod to the airport’s official Federal Aviation Administration designation of FAT. In addition to an already-completed parking garage, the $120 million expansion includes an enlarged security screening area for the U.S. Transportation Security Administration and an expanded terminal with a bigger terminal area for international arrivals and departures.

Dyer noted that the terminal expansion will triple the airport’s capacity for processing international passengers flying on Volaris and Aeromexico to and from Mexico. “Great cities have great airports, and we are well on our way to having a great airport,” Dyer said.