sfo03.jpgMore people passed through San Francisco International Airport in 2012 than any previous year, with an estimated 44.5 million passengers traveling out of the Bay Area’s busiest airport, a spokesman said.

Last year’s all-time record for annual passenger traffic at SFO was up 8.5 percent from a previous record set in 2011, when approximately 41 million people traveled through the airport, acting SFO spokesman Doug Yakel said.

“We believe that a big reason behind the growth is the competition between low-cost carriers,” Yakel said.

Southwest Airlines, JetBlue Airways, and Virgin America have all expanded their operations at SFO during the last five years, competing with each other in the low-cost ticket market and increasing passenger traffic as a result, he said.

In addition to record passenger numbers, SFO continued to be a major economic driver for the region, generating an estimated $469 million in state and local taxes, Yakel said.

More than 29,500 people are employed as a direct result of operations at SFO, Yakel said, generating an estimated $1.7 billion in personal income. Those jobs include flight attendants, ground crews, concession employees, car rental employees and service company workers.

Hotels, restaurants and transportation companies also benefit from increased activity at the airport, Yakel said.

Major construction projects, such as a new state-of-the-art air traffic control tower that broke ground in May, continue to bring jobs to the area.

SFO dominated Bay Area air travel compared to other regional airports at Oakland and San Jose, Yakel said. SFO managed 66 percent of the Bay Area’s domestic flights in 2012, and 97 percent of international flights, he said.

Among SFO’s 2012 accolades was being named among Fodor’s top seven airports in the world, and Frequent Business Traveler’s “Best Airport in the Americas.”

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