After a record summer for airline travel and a busy Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is looking to reach new heights in the new year.

Thanksgiving weekend is often referred to as the busiest travel weekend of the year. Airport Manager Jim Szczesniak says that while there is some truth to that, it's ultimately a myth.

“There’s no doubt that that is a busy travel season, but it ends up usually being the last week in July, first week in August, is the busiest travel season, or travel day, somewhere it falls in there,” he said.

So how did the airport fare this past weekend for holiday travelers?

“Everything worked smooth at Ted Stevens, so again our on-time performance is stellar,” Szczesniak said.

This past summer, around 76,000 additional passengers passed through the airport — a 2.5% increase from 2018. Szczesniak credits the allure of the state and a robust marketing effort.

“Alaska is a very attractive destination for people and we were very fortunate that we got the success that we needed marketing to airlines to come into the airport," he said. "So we had a bunch of new airlines and then new destinations that started at the airport.”

Some of those include:

  • Allegiant Air entering the market with service to Bellingham, Washington
  • United Airlines beginning daily service to Newark, New Jersey 
  • Sun Country Airlines beginning direct service to Las Vegas
  • Air Canada adding a second daily flight to Vancouver, Canada 
  • Alaska Airlines adding more flights to Seattle 
  • Delta Airlines adding flights to Salt Lake City
  • American Airlines flying planes with more capacity to Dallas and Phoenix

According to Szczesniak, more growth is expected in 2020.

“As of right now we’ve got new frequencies from carriers, so Alaska Airlines is going to be coming nonstop out of San Francisco, United’s going to be coming nonstop out of LA," he said. "We’re adding Eurowings, which is a European carrier that's going to be coming out of Frankfurt, and then American is moving their Phoenix flight over to Chicago, so we’ll have additional Chicago capacity.”

While passenger travel is key to success, so is cargo. The airport is one of the busiest cargo airports in the world.

"We do a really good job, our staff does, of making sure that our operation is super efficient."

He added, "we compete with other airports. There's airports in Canada and airports in Russia that would love to have our business, but as long as we perform, keep our costs low and our operation efficient, they want to stay here.”

Additional projects are coming to the airport in 2020 and 2021. Szczesniak says that means improved services and more local jobs.

“The governor’s message is 'Alaska’s open for business.' We’ve been very successful with that at the airport," he said. "We’ve actually got three-quarters of a billion dollars of projects announced in the pipeline there. The vast majority of them are cargo facilities and if you look at the square footage on those, the jobs on that’s going to be somewhere probably in the 700 to 1,400, you know, permanent full time jobs.”

Szczesniak also says because runway projects are complete, Anchorage residents shouldn't be hearing air traffic over town. There are, however, times when you will hear traffic where you typically wouldn't.

“When that North/South runway is closed for snow removal, maintenance, you know, that kind of stuff, there may be temporary times where we have to put stuff over the city, but not anything normal that you’re going to see like that," he said.

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