Following a record-breaking year in which it grew three times faster than the national average, Portland International Jetport is making some changes intended to move increasing numbers of passengers through its terminal.

Jetport officials said Friday that its passenger count jumped nearly 15 percent in 2018, to more than 2.1 million, an all-time record. That surpassed the previous year’s passenger number of nearly 1.9 million, which was also a record.

The passenger growth in Maine last year far outstripped international averages. The International Air Transport Association said passenger growth was 6.5 percent internationally last year and 5.0 percent in North America. The association said it expects growth to be about the same this year.

To accommodate more passengers, the airport is planning a number of improvements. Zachary Sundquist, assistant airport director, said workers are replacing an escalator and adding a second elevator from the passenger concourse on the second floor to the baggage claim area on ground level. He said the work is part of a long-term plan for the terminal to remain up to date for passengers.

The current elevator in that part of the terminal is out of the way and small, Sundquist said. The new elevator will be more accessible and should help disabled passengers, in particular, move more quickly to the baggage claim after getting off a flight.

Last year’s passenger increase, Sundquist said, was primarily because of the addition of Frontier Airlines, which began flying into and out of Portland in 2018. He said American Airlines also added new seasonal flights to and from Chicago and American and other airlines added larger jets to its Portland routes.

Earlier this month, United announced it would begin flying nonstop to Denver this summer.

The addition of larger aircraft, primarily from 70-seat jets to 110-seat aircraft, is a strong sign that the airlines see growth in Portland, he said.

“Those seats are all revenue for the airlines, so they’re going to put them into markets where they can fill them,” Sundquist said.

Even though Frontier didn’t start flying to and from Portland until July, Sundquist said, it captured nearly 3 percent of the market for the year. The airport said American Airlines had the largest share of the market in Portland, with nearly 29 percent of passengers on board that airline’s flights. Delta Air Lines had more than 25 percent of the passengers, followed by United, Southwest, JetBlue, Frontier and Elite.

In addition to the elevator and escalator work, Sundquist said the airport is also renovating some bathrooms in the terminal and adding seating and power outlets to passenger waiting areas. A longer-range master plan calls for additional work triggered by rising passenger levels, primarily upgrades to or relocation of taxiways around the airport’s two main runways.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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