Salt Lake City airport sets record as throngs of post-pandemic passengers take to the skies

Officials say international travel fueled the growth.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Salt Lake City International Airport on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2023. The airport set a passenger record last year, with Delta Air Lines leading the charge.

Salt Lake City International Airport’s passenger numbers continued their post-pandemic takeoff last year with a record number of travelers passing through the new airport’s concourses.

According to numbers released by airport officials Monday, more than 26.9 million passengers flew into or out of Salt Lake City in 2023. The new record bests the pre-pandemic 2019 high by more than 100,000 passengers.

Airport officials said in a news release that the growth can be attributed to more international passengers touching down and departing Utah’s capital. Ongoing expansion projects will boost the airport’s annual passenger capacity to 34 million once they are finished.

“Three-plus years ago, when ‘The New SLC’ opened its doors, I couldn’t have predicted such a tremendous rebound in passenger traffic,” Bill Wyatt, executive director of the Salt Lake City Department of Airports, said in the release. “The robust Utah economy has certainly played a role in the growth, as has the incredible partnership with our hub carrier, Delta Air Lines, and the connectivity they provide with their global partners throughout Canada, Europe and Mexico.”

Delta and partner regional airline SkyWest Airlines served more than 20 million of those nearly 27 million passengers last year. Delta offers trans-Atlantic international flights from Salt Lake City to Amsterdam, London and Paris. It also serves three Canadian and four Mexican destinations.

Last year, Cancun was the most popular international route, with London claiming the second spot. An airport spokesperson said the Mexican flights have performed well since the pandemic hit.

Overall, Los Angeles is the airport’s most popular destination.

The airport has experienced steady growth since opening in 2020. That year, it served about 12.5 million passengers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Those numbers steadily rebounded in following years with 22.3 million passengers traveling through the airport in 2021 and 25.7 million travelers passing through in 2022.

Salt Lake City is home to the 21st-busiest airport in the United States.

When the old airport set its previous record in 2019, it was operating at almost three times the facility’s intended capacity. The new airport and its planned expansion are designed to meet the growing demand. The final expansion of the existing concourses is due for completion in 2026.

The next milestone for the airport will come this fall with the opening of the Central Tunnel. The project’s completion will ease the often-criticized journey to the B gates.

Despite the ongoing construction and the soaring number of travelers, the airport scores high marks for passenger satisfaction.