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CAPE FEAR MEMORIAL BRIDGE CLOSURE: UPDATES, RESOURCES, AND CONTEXT

A record 2.2 million passengers traveled through Asheville Regional Airport in 2023

The wing of an airplane at sunset.
Felicia Sonmez
An airplane flies at sunset.

A record 2.2 million passengers flew into or out of Asheville Regional Airport last year, a figure reflecting the region’s explosive growth as a tourism destination.

The number represents a 22.2 percent increase from 2022, according to airport authorities – a significant jump, but slightly less than the 29 percent increase that year.

"The growth at our region's airport is not just significant; it's extraordinary,” President and CEO of the Greater Asheville Regional Airport Authority Lew Bleiweis said in a statement Thursday. “We extend our congratulations to our airline partners for their successes in western North Carolina and express our gratitude to our region's travelers for consistently choosing AVL for their journeys."

The Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority also hailed the numbers at a meeting on Wednesday, noting that visitors who travel to Asheville by air “typically stay longer and spend more throughout the community” than other types of travelers.

According to airport figures cited by the TDA, for each month during the period from November 2022 to October 2023, the number of passengers at Asheville Regional Airport exceeded the number from the previous year.

A chart of Asheville airport passengers from November 2022 to October 2023.
Asheville Regional Airport via Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority
A chart of Asheville airport passengers from November 2022 to October 2023.

The airport is the third busiest in North Carolina, behind Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte Douglas, and is set to expand even further: in August, work began on a new passenger terminal that will increase the airport’s size by 150%. The $400 million project is expected to be completed in 2026.

Six airlines currently service the Asheville airport: Allegiant, American, Delta, JetBlue, SunCountry and United. Those airlines fly to a total of 27 nonstop destinations, the highest-ever for the airport, authorities said.

The airport’s rise in popularity has not come without some growing pains. Parking is a persistent issue, and the airport is considering adding anywhere from 1,500 to 3,000 new parking spaces by 2041, according to the Asheville Citizen Times.

Felicia Sonmez is a reporter covering growth and development for Blue Ridge Public Radio.