San Diego International Airport Contributes to Regional Economy

Created: 27 September, 2018
Last update: 27 July, 2022

By Ana Gomez Salcido

(Photo / Glenn Beltz)

A new economic impact study completed for San Diego International Airport (SAN) indicates a dramatic increase in regional employment, payroll and economic impact as a result of the airport. The study quantifies the airport’s total economic contributions to the region at nearly $12 billion annually.

“This study highlights the airport’s role as far more than a vital transportation resource for the San Diego region,” said Kimberly Becker, Airport Authority president and CEO. “SAN is a regional asset that is also a major economic driver and job creator, constantly looking at ways to improve the passenger experience and help the region become increasingly global.”

The study measures the direct and indirect economic impacts generated by SAN. To do so, the study compared 2017 data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, San Diego Tourism Authority, Airport Authority and on-airport tenants.

The study was last conducted in 2013 using data from 2012. Since then, the airport has undertaken a number of construction projects to make travel easier and more efficient. Projects include: The Green Build Terminal 2 Expansion, Rental Car Center, Terminal 2 Parking Plaza, International Arrivals facility, and the on-airport roadway.

Total employment supported by the airport has increased by 31 percent over the past five years. In 2017 nearly 118,000 residents in the region were employed directly or indirectly due to the activities at SAN, generating nearly $3.9 billion in total annual payroll. Of total employment in San Diego County, SAN supports 5.7 percent of people employed in the region.

The growth in economic impact is largely due to the airport’s increase in passenger traffic. In 2012, the airport accommodated nearly 17.3 million passengers, which grew to nearly 22 million in 2017 passengers. Business and leisure visitors spend money while visiting the region, thereby helping support additional economic impacts. According to the San Diego Tourism Authority, visitors arriving by air spend an average of $835 per person per trip. In 2017, it is estimated that more than 5.9 million visitors to the region spent nearly $5 billion in the regional economy.

After Los Angeles International Airport and San Francisco International Airport, San Diego International Airport is the third-busiest airport in California by passenger enplanements and the 27th busiest airport in the U.S., based on date for 2016 from the Federal Aviation Administration.

In 2017, twenty-one passenger airlines served San Diego International Airport including Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, British Airways, Japan Airlines, Skywest Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Virgin America, and more.