July was a record setting month for the Pensacola International Airport and Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport. However, the growth in passengers in Okaloosa County was much greater than the local airport, tightening the gap between the two facilities.
A year ago, the Pensacola International Airport had a 53-percent more passengers in July than the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport–155,543 total passengers to 101,528. Pensacola’s lead was cut by more than a third in July 2017, dropping the total difference to only 33,506 passengers for the month.
Year to date, Destin-Fort Walton Beach has handled 158,239 more passengers than last year for a 30.1 percent increase. Pensacola has only had 48,922 more passengers in 2017 than 2016 for the period of January-July –a 5.2 percent increase. The rate of passenger growth in Okaloosa County is more than three times greater than the rate for the Pensacola International Airport.
For Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Allegiant has made the difference. The low-fare carrier added non-stop routes to 11 cities at the airport in January.
The most recent nationwide airfare data, released by FAA’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics, covered the first quarter of 2017. Destin-Fort Walton Beach’s average airfare price was $512.26 last year. For the first quarter of 2017, the average airfare dropped to $460.70 – $51.56 (a 10% decrease).
The same report had Pensacola International Airport with the lowest airfare on the Gulf Coast – $443.24, which is $11.53 less than last year’s Pensacola’s average airfare – but only a 2.6% decrease.
Based on the steady rise in passengers in Okaloosa County, future FAA reports may show Destin-Fort Walton Beach’s average airfares lower than Pensacola’s.
Next year, the Pensacola International Airport will be adding Frontier Airlines and its direct flights to its hub in Denver. The low fares might help the city match its nearest rival’s passenger growth.