Anchorage's airport set passenger record last year
Although Anchorage's airport handled a record quantity of cargo last year, it also had room to handle an equally large number of passengers in 2018.
Among Alaskans catching a flight Thursday was Wasilla's William Burns and his wife. They are heading to Oregon.
"We're going out to get another truck," said Burns.
They take off from Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, a place he knows well.
"We used to haul dirt out here, when they were building the runway, we hauled dirt out to the new runway, and we paved it," Burns said.
Things certainly have changed at the airport over the years.
"It's gotten 10 times larger," Burns said. "We used to drive into the bottom area; there was no top (departures area), just the bottom,"
The airport has also gotten busier: More than 5.6 million passengers traveled in and out of the airport last year, a 3 percent increase over the previous year. That's a record, according to airport manager Jim Szczesniak.
"It's always on the bucket list – people always want to go to Alaska. With the economy doing very well, you're getting a lot of people who take the plunge to come here," Szczesniak said.
He credits the increase to airlines offering more flights to Anchorage, and using larger jets to fly them.
The airport saw an extra 85,000 people pass through last year compared to 2017, but that's not the only area that saw growth.
Nearly 2.8 million metric tons passed through the airport in 2018, up by 2.5 percent from the previous year and setting another record.
Szczesniak is not surprised.
"We're seeing growth in new markets, particularly like Latin America to Asia," he said. "There's a lot of perishables that are going out of South America, and they have to transit Anchorage in order to get into Asia."
The airport's record growth may be too much for Burns.
"My state's gotten too big," he said, laughing. "I gotta get out of here!"
As the Burnses took off from Anchorage, their Thursday may just help the airport set another record this year.
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