The final numbers are in on one of the worst years in memory for Tampa Bay’s two large airports.
After promising starts in 2020, both Tampa International Airport and St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport saw significant drop-offs from March through December due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to final annual counts released this week.
At Tampa International, nearly 10.2 million travelers passed through the gates during the past calendar year — fewer than half of the nearly 22.5 million who flew there in 2019 and the lowest annual total since 1993.
At the St. Pete-Clearwater airport, nearly 1.4 million passengers traveled through the gates, a 39 percent decline from the previous year. It’s the hub’s lowest total since 2014 and the only year-over-year decline of the past 10 years.
International travel also dropped at both airports. Tampa saw 404,468 international passengers, many of them in January and February 2020, before the onset of the pandemic, which curbed most international travel for the rest of the year. For the year, that was a 66 percent decline from 2019.
At St. Pete-Clearwater, where international travel is a much smaller and largely seasonal business, the number of international travelers dropped 52 percent to 6,496.
Prior to flights being grounded in March, both airports had seen year-over-year improvements. In January 2020, both Tampa and St. Pete-Clearwater saw passenger traffic increase by around 7 percent from January 2019. In February, traffic jumped by nearly 8 percent in Tampa and 14 percent at St. Pete-Clearwater from the previous February.
In December, traditionally one of the busiest travel months, passenger traffic was down at both airports — 55 percent in Tampa and 38 percent at St. Pete-Clearwater.