City officials display a banner touting San Antonio International Airport's 2018 passenger traffic. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

The final counts are in, and on Friday, City officials announced that more than 10 million people flew in and out of the San Antonio International Airport in 2018.

The total number of passengers who flew through the San Antonio airport in 2018 was revealed on a large banner as 10,044,411 passengers, or nearly a million more than during the previous year.

“We can safely say the word is out on San Antonio International,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg.

The growth is a trend that’s come about through a number of efforts to improve the airport and the routes offered, City leaders said.

In 2017, 9,063,542 travelers passed through San Antonio airport, the first time in the airport’s history that the passenger count exceeded 9 million and an increase of more than 5 percent over the 2016 record.

“2018 was a fantastic year for San Antonio in so many ways, starting with the Tricentennial and a number of incredible events to include the NCAA Final Four,” said Russ Handy, director of the City’s Aviation department.

In addition to opening the new seven-story Consolidated Rental Car Facility, airport officials announced a number of new direct flights and markets during the year, a new carrier, and a $25 million private hangar hub.

City Manager Sheryl Sculley gave credit to much of the growth to the Aviation department team headed by Handy.

“When we hired our current Aviation director, we asked him to focus on three major areas for the airport,” Sculley said, including customer service, air service development, and management of capital programs. “Running an airport is a very complicated job. We operate and construct while we are in operations and the airport is operated nearly 24/7. … In his tenure, we’ve seen some dramatic results.”

New installations of art and live performances have added to the color, flavor, and feel of the airport. Cargo transport also increased in 2018, up 9 percent over the previous year, to 217 million pounds – growth not seen since 2010.

“But the most remarkable development of all is we have increased our nonstop destinations last year, which translates into seat capacity of 9 percent overall, which helps business and leisure travelers get where they need to be faster,” Sculley said.

In October, the San Antonio Airport System launched a strategic development planning process to prepare for increased traffic and competition from larger regional airports such as Austin-Bergstrom and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport over the next 20 years. The Austin-Bergstrom Airport has reported total passenger traffic for January 2018 to November 2018 as 14.5 million, up 14 percent, compared to the same period in 2017.

The numbers matter for future growth and attracting service to the San Antonio airport. “It’s a highly competitive process,” Sculley said. “It’s not just wanting and making a great sales pitch, which is important, but having the data to support those commercial decisions.”

Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the development beat reporter for the San Antonio Report.