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Passenger traffic is up 11.1% at Logan

Rise attributed to budget carriers

By Katie Johnston Chase
Globe Staff / February 24, 2010

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Passengers may have ranked Logan International Airport near the bottom in customer satisfaction on a recent J.D. Power survey, but they’re flying out of Boston in increasing numbers, thanks to four new airlines.

In January, 1.8 million travelers passed through the airport, an 11.1 percent rise from the previous January - the first doubledigit growth at Logan since December 2004. Passenger numbers started picking up in July, after falling in all but one of the previous 20 months.

“The numbers seem to be heading in the right direction every month,’’ said Phillip Orlandella, airport spokesman.

The airport has not bounced back to the passenger numbers it had in January 2007 (1.93 million), but it’s doing better than the nation as a whole. About 0.4 percent fewer passengers traveled on US airlines in January than in the previous January, according to the Air Transport Association. Logan finished 2009 down about 2.3 percent from the year before; nationwide, the drop in passenger volume was 6 percent last year.

Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in New Hampshire ended 2009 with 14.4 percent less traffic than the year before; T.F. Green Airport in Rhode Island had a 7.7 percent slide. Last month, T.F. Green reported a 12.2 percent decline; Manchester has not released its January numbers.

The uptick at Logan is largely attributed to the four low-cost carriers that launched service from Boston last year: Virgin America, Sun Country Airlines, Porter Airlines, and Southwest Airlines - ratcheting up the competition and driving down fares. Logan now has seven airlines it considers low-cost, a marked change from eight years ago, when Midwest Airlines and AirTran Airways were the only discount carriers in the market. The biggest of the bunch, JetBlue Airways, has more flights and destinations out of Logan than any other airline.

The rising passenger numbers reflect the fact that affordable airlines have been flocking to Boston, said Daniel Kasper, at the Cambridge office of LECG, an economics and financial consulting firm. “It largely reflects a reshuffling of traffic in New England,’’ Kasper said.

And new airlines are always on the radar. Air Canada, for example, is planning to increase its service out of Logan by 24 percent this year.

Katie Johnston Chase can be reached at johnstonchase@globe.com.