Wilmington International Airport logged its highest-ever departure record for May last month when it accommodated nearly 52,360 seats of outbound traffic. Last month's departure traffic ranks as ILM's second overall monthly record, behind just July 2021, when ILM accommodated 55,710 seats. Airport officials anticipate continuing to break records this summer.
May’s departure total marks a 26% increase over the year prior. The boost at ILM came amid an industry-wide dip in departures, down 10% from pre-pandemic figures during a similar time period, according to ILM spokesperson Erin McNally. North Carolina airports reported similar downturns in April and May, McNally noted.
However, air traffic at nearby Raleigh-Durham International Airport also soared, up 41% over last year, with about 548,700 outbound passengers in May.
Data tracked by Airlines 4 America, a national industry trade association, show that among the group's member airlines, domestic traffic between May 16 and 22 was down 7% compared to the same time in 2019; domestic traffic dipped 10% between May 30 and June 5. Domestic traffic has not yet met 2019 levels, the data show.
The airport’s “healthy mix of leisure and business travel” contributed to the bump, McNally said.
Passenger traffic at ILM returned to 2019 levels in April, according to McNally (since then, outbound and inbound traffic have exceeded pre-pandemic trends). Since last year, ILM’s departures have consistently outperformed the national and state average as a percentage of pre-pandemic traffic, according to data tracked by ILM. American Airlines consistently books the most passengers heading out of ILM, followed by other legacy carriers Delta Airlines and United Airlines.
ILM airport director Jeffrey Bourk said he was happy to see the airport’s strong passenger numbers. “I am thankful that our airline partners have increased the number of seats in the market,” he said. “That increased capacity, coupled with vigorous travel demand, has led to strong numbers at ILM and we anticipate this growth trajectory will continue in the months ahead.”
In May, ILM offered 125,000 seats both inbound and outbound, up from 116,000 seats in 2019. Even more seat capacity is planned in the coming months, with 140,000 budgeted for July.
The previous departure record for May was in 2019, with nearly 49,780 passengers.
ILM's first low-cost carrier, Avelo, will host its inaugural flight Thursday, bringing three additional routes to the airport on a rotating basis. With the added routes, ILM could continue to break its records, should the current trend continue amid the busiest flying season of the year.
Correction: This article has been corrected to clarify the May 2022 departure record was ILM's highest outgoing traffic on record for the month of May.
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