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Port Authority tracks rise in passengers at Kennedy in 2011

An AirTrain travels above the Van Wyck Expressway. Photo by Christina Santucci
TimesLedger Newspapers

New York City’s three area airports reported increased — in some cases record — numbers of passengers last year despite the economic downturn and periods of severe weather.

The AirTrain transit light rail systems, serving John F. Kennedy International and Newark Liberty airports, also recorded passenger growth in 2011.

The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey said Kennedy and Newark airports had record numbers of international passengers.

“Our airports continue to be significant economic engines for the region, responsible for more than half a million direct and indirect jobs and tens of billions of dollars in economic activity,” said Port Authority Chairman David Semson. “We are committed to continuing multimillion-dollar investments in our airports to ensure they continue to serve as premier gateways to the region from around the world.”

In 2011, JFK handled 23.9 million passengers, around 810,000 more than the previous record set in 2010. Newark also set an international passenger record with 11.5 million passengers — more passengers than 2010.

Overall passenger growth at JFK was 2.5 percent (47.7 million), 1.6 percent at Newark Liberty (33.3 million), 0.6 percent at LaGuardia Airport (24.1 million) and 4.8 percent (413,000) at Stewart Airport in Westchester County.

More than 5.5 million paid riders used the JFK AirTrain last year, the seventh consecutive ridership increase reported by the system, and a 5.4 percent increase over 2010.

The Newark Airport AirTrain, connecting the New Jersey Transit Northeast Corridor railroad to Newark Liberty Airport, reported annual paid ridership of more than 2 million for the first time since the system opened in 2002.

Millions of additional riders used both rail systems at JFK and Newark free of charge to link up with terminals, car rental and parking lots.

The increased passenger traffic came despite two of what the Port Authority called “significant snowfalls” in January 2011 and one in February. The airports also were forced to shut down due to Hurricane Irene from Aug. 27 to early Aug. 29 and a freak blizzard Aug. 29.

“As the number of international tourists to our region increases every year, it is our goal to make sure we have modern, efficient, customer-oriented facilities ready to welcome them,” said Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye. “We are looking at innovative, public-private partnerships to rebuild LaGuardia’s Central Terminal building into a state-of-the-art facility and we plan a similar initiative with Terminal A at Newark. We also are working with Delta Air Lines to rebuild and transform its aging JFK terminal.”

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at or phone at 718-260-4536.

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