Buffalo and Vermont airports set passenger records

Buffalo Niagara International and Vermont's Burlington International each reported all-time passenger records in 2008. Officials at both airports credit a growing number of Canadian travelers as well as expansion by low-cost carriers such as JetBlue, Southwest and AirTran.

The 2008 passenger count at Buffalo was 5.5 million, up 3.5% over 2007. It was the airport's fifth-consecutive record-setting year.

Douglas Hartmayer, spokesman for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, which operates the Buffalo airport, estimates that a third of the airport's passengers come from Canada, drawn by lower fares out of Buffalo. Buffalo Niagara is about a 15-mile drive from the Ontario border and about 110 miles from Toronto, Canada's largest city.

At Burlington, a record 759,021 passengers boarded flights last year at Vermont's busiest airport. Like Buffalo, the airport has benefited from a steady flow of Canadian fliers and the presence of low-cost carriers. Burlington is just over 100 miles from Montreal.

Brian Searles, director of aviation of Burlington International, says the Canadian market "has always been part of our base," but has seen a major uptick recently: "Depending on the season, it appears that Canadian travel is now between 40% and 50% of our business."

Route news

Super expansion

At least five airlines have plans to add flights or boost capacity to the Tampa Bay area for Super Bowl XLIII, where the Pittsburgh Steelers will take on the Arizona Cardinals.

From Pittsburgh, JetBlue will add non-stop flights to Tampa, a route it currently serves only with connecting service, with two southbound non-stops prior to the Super Bowl and two return flights on Feb. 2, the day after the game.

Southwest, which already has non-stop service between the two cities, will add a flight in each direction.

Two small leisure carriers — Direct Air and USA 3000 — also will add special Super Bowl service from Pittsburgh, with each adding one round-trip flight to the Tampa Bay area.

Phoenix fans are also getting extra options for the game. Southwest is adding an extra round-trip flight to Tampa, while US Airways is using larger aircraft on some of its flights.

On Jan. 29, Feb. 2 and Feb. 3, US Airways will upgrade to an Airbus A321 on one of its two daily Phoenix-Tampa round-trip flights, giving the carrier an extra 33 seats per flight.

Airport construction

Only five more years …

A new 20-gate concourse will replace the existing terminals at Dallas Love Field, the home airport of Southwest Airlines. The effort is part of a $519 million capital improvement project. Work is expected to conclude in 2014, the year that the last of the Wright Amendment rules restricting long flights at the airport are lifted.

"For nearly 30 years under the Wright Amendment, Dallas had no real incentive to improve its Love Field airport," Southwest spokeswoman Beth Harbin says. "We're as pleased as can be that when those travel restrictions finally roll off in 2014, Dallas travelers also will have a shiny new airport that better serves their needs and tastes."