SAN served 24 million passengers in 2018, a record-high total and a nearly 10 percent increase over the previous year. Of the 24 million passengers, more than 1 million were international passengers – a 19 percent increase over 2017. That is also a record for the airport.


In addition to a strong economy and robust tourism industry, several factors contributed to the increase in 2018, including:

  • Air Canada adding a third daily flight to Vancouver;
  • Lufthansa beginning service to Frankfurt;
  • Japan Airlines filling more seats per flight, a measurement known as “load factor.” The San Diego flight operated at one of the highest load factors of any mainland US-Tokyo flight in their system;
  • Edelweiss carrying 49 percent more passengers to Zurich in 2018 than they did in 2017; and
  • Southwest adding Puerto Vallarta service in 2018 and increasing service to Cabo.

Overall, 16 new routes were added in 2018, and all but two of the 17 airlines serving SAN experienced an increase in passenger traffic. Southwest added the most passengers, carrying 794,401 more in 2018 than in 2017, followed by Alaska Airlines with 456,360 and United with 306,837.

With more people choosing San Diego as their destination, the airport is planning to launch projects aimed at accommodating this growth trend. This includes the Airport Development Plan, or ADP. The ADP replaces the aging Terminal 1 with an attractive, modern, and more efficient terminal, which will include more seating, restaurants and shops, as well as additional security check point lanes.

Consistent with the design of Terminal 2, the new Terminal 1 will separate arriving and departing passenger traffic with an elevated departures roadway that will include curbside check-in.

The ADP also calls for a new, $165 million mobility corridor to be built on airport property that connects Laurel Street and Harbor Drive directly with the airport. The corridor will remove an estimated 45,000 cars per day from Harbor Drive, create a bicycle and pedestrian pathway along the airport’s property boundary, and free up space within North Harbor Drive for potential Rapid Bus or light rail transit opportunities that could serve not only the airport, but also the Harbor Island redevelopment projects being considered by the Port of San Diego. Finally, the Authority has reduced the size of the parking plaza in the proposed ADP in order to create an area designated for a future transit station to serve both airport terminals.

Detailed reports of SAN air traffic statistics are available at

MTS Bus Ridership to Airport Tops 400K in 2018

2018 Snapshot

When many people think of transit, the trolley is often the first mode that comes to mind. It’s interesting to note that bus ridership has become increasingly prevalent among those who use transit to access the airport. In fact, the Metropolitan Transit System’s (MTS) Bus 992, which travels from downtown San Diego to both SAN terminals, exceeded 407,000 riders in 2018, a nearly 10 percent increase over the previous year.

In 2018, Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) - also commonly called app-based ridesharing services – were the preferred transportation method for approximately 24 percent of passengers. Lyft agreed to participate in a trial program at SAN that utilized a “PreMatch” feature during high demand times at the airport to reduce customer wait time. (All permitted TNCs were invited to participate in the trial; only Lyft agreed.) The test was successful, and a longer term Pilot Program is being considered for Lyft over the summer months.

Further, all TNCs operating at the airport continued to participate in SAN’s industry-leading greenhouse gas emissions reduction program.

Finally, the Airport Authority was recognized with a Diamond Gold Award from iCommute San Diego in 2018 for successfully promoting employees’ use of alternative transportation for their commute. The Authority rose two levels from the Diamond Bronze Award that it received in 2017.


Riders In 2018
The Airport Authority is collaborating closely with the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) and other public agencies to identify a regional, long-term transit solution to SAN. The Airport Authority has modified its Airport Development Plan to create an area designated for a future transit station that can connect with whatever transit solution is ultimately identified by SANDAG.
In 2019, MTS will be expanding Bus 992’s operating hours to better accommodate employees’ work shifts as well as early morning and late evening flights. In addition, the Airport Authority is working to initiate a new shuttle service from the Old Town Transit Center, which is an important connection for regional and commuter rail passengers.
Courtesy Carts and Shuttle Services enhanced to Boost Accessibility

2018 Snapshot

To provide additional services to passengers with disabilities, SAN has expanded the courtesy cart service to pre-security areas and launched an inter-terminal shuttle. The Airport Authority also hosted multiple familiarization tours for passengers with autism. Finally, the airport worked with the Guide Dogs of America to bring puppies-in-training to the terminals as part of a special training day designed to prepare them for life as working guide dogs.

The Airport Authority is constantly striving to ensure that it addresses the full spectrum of disabilities regarding access. The Airport Authority also has a formal grievance process if there are issues with access to programs, services, or facilities. No official accessibility grievances were received in 2018.
The Airport Authority will continue to closely monitor the numerous contractors working on airport construction projects to ensure that all Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards and best practices are met.
Customer Satisfaction a Top Priority at SAN

2018 Snapshot

The Airport Authority is committed to exceeding its customers’ expectations. In 2018, 77 percent of surveyed passengers reported they were satisfied with their experience traveling through SAN. The airport launched several customer-facing initiatives in 2018, including interactive wayfinding and concession directories that were installed throughout the terminals, and the Figure of Speech exhibit that features various local artists and explores the complexity, history, and beauty of language through creative uses of mixed media.

Finally, the Airport Authority continued its successful “Airport Ambassador” volunteer program, which welcomes and assists guests in a friendly and helpful manner. The program’s 2018 Ambassador of the Year was Sue Hunt, who was profoundly instrumental in helping the program prepare the information center for the new International Arrivals Facility.

The Airport Authority is working to minimize potential airline relocations, parking changes and other disruptions expected as part of large capital projects in the terminals, including the proposed Airport Development Plan.
As part of its commitment to be a passenger-focused enterprise, the Airport Authority is working to develop a formal “brand promise” to help align all 9,400 SAN employees in collectively exceeding customers’ expectations. It is anticipated that the new brand promise will launch in 2019. SAN has also created a Customer Experience Council to help ensure our passengers’ needs are being met at a consistently high level.
New Technology Advancing the Passenger Screening Experience at SAN

2018 Snapshot

Last June, the Airport Authority opened a new 130,000-square-foot International Arrivals facility at Terminal 2 West. The new facility allows the airport to accommodate the increase in international passengers resulting from recently added overseas flights. The facility allows for greater processing efficiency, while providing heightened security features. This includes the latest technologies – including biometrics and mobile passport control -- from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that will enhance the customer experience.

Additionally, the Airport Authority expanded Checkpoint 5 in Terminal 2 East to provide better passenger flow and to create more space for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). This project supports the increased passenger volumes that are expected due to the recent relocation of Alaska Airlines to Terminal 2 East.

The Airport Authority, CBP, and TSA have worked hard to reduce the amount of time it takes to screen and process passengers. But in doing so, they have had to balance passenger and employee convenience with the need for specific security measures.
Demand for air travel is forecasted to grow significantly in the region over the next 20 years. As the region’s primary airport, the number of passengers is therefore expected to continue to increase at SAN. The Airport Authority and its federal partners will focus on assessing the need for additional security screening equipment and areas to serve these higher passenger volumes.