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Hancock Airport's record passenger count might force more renovations

A luminous blue sign sits above an office door entrance.
WAER file photo
A Syracuse Hancock International Airport office greets travelers inside the airport.

Syracuse’s Hancock Airport continues to see significant growth with a surge in passengers in 2023. More than 2.86 million passengers flew either in or out of town last year, an 11 percent increase over record pre-pandemic levels. Regional Airport Authority Customer Experience Director Matt Szwejbka explains the many reasons behind the boost in travelers.

"Airlines consolidating service into our market; just a pent up demand from the pandemic which is happening across the industry that's not unique to Syracuse," Szwejbka said. "But, what is unique to Syracuse and we have the Department of Transportation data to prove it: We are one of the fastest growing airports of all sizes across the nation.”

The airport has undergone significant renovations in recent years and the Authority still plans to evolve and expand to accommodate the potential for even more travelers. As more airlines have been added to offer more destinations with larger planes, Szwejbka says it presents significant challenges and points to the need for renovations to accommodate growth.

“We have to more effectively use the space, and that's where these projects are helping us in the short term more efficiently use the space we already have," Szwejbka said. "But longer term, we're going to need a different layout where you can have more larger what we call mainline aircraft.”

He adds the upside to adding more airlines with larger planes is fewer people traveling down the Thruway to other cities seeking better options. Parking still remains a challenge as the Regional Airport Authority figures out how to replace its existing garages while not disrupting travelers. Szwejbka says the development of the airport’s master plan is currently underway and will likely take 2 to 3 years to complete. He says everything changed once Micron announced it was coming to the Town of Clay.

John Smith has been waking up WAER listeners for a long time as our Local Co-Host of Morning Edition with timely news and information, working alongside student Sportscasters from the Newhouse School.