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Lambert sees slight growth in traffic in 2012, but still way down from 'hub' years

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 23, 2013 - Almost two years after a tornado hit the terminal, Lambert-St. Louis International Airport is reporting that it has recorded a growth in passenger traffic for the second straight year.

In 2012, airport officials say the airport served more than 12.7 million passengers, an increase of a little over 1 percent compared to 2011.

Currently, “Lambert serves the region with 250 daily departures on 11 carriers to 61 non-stop destinations,” the airport said in a statement.

Still, that’s fewer than half of the departures out of Lambert in 1999, when the airport was still a hub for Trans World Airlines and more than 15 million passengers a year passed through Lambert.

A few years after the merger with American Airlines in 2001, Lambert lost its hub status, and American slashed its flights in and out of the airport.

In 2012, terminal traffic was split pretty evenly between departing passengers (6.4 million) and arriving passengers (6.3 million). Compared to 2011, the number of arriving passengers was up 1.4 percent, while departing passengers increased by 1.1 percent.

The improvement in departing passengers was slightly below the 1.7 percent increase that the airport saw in 2011, compared to 2010.

Spokeswoman Deneen Busby said the 2012 increases are in line with recent years. She also pointed to the airport's physical improvements over the last 18 months – some financed by insurance covering the tornado damage. The airport now appears “fresher, newer,’’ Busby said.

The numbers for December were particularly strong, the airport said. Compared to a year ago, December 2012 activity saw a 1 percent increase in departures and a 3.2 percent increase in arrivals. Much of the increase was due to a rise in connecting traffic, officials said.

“Southwest Airlines continues to be Lambert’s largest carrier with 47 percent of the market (passengers), which is an increase of 2 percent over 2011,” Lambert said. “American (16 percent) and Delta (13 percent) are the next two biggest carriers.”

Lambert now ranks among Southwest’s top 10 airports.

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