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Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport Welcomed Race Fans for Kentucky Derby

May 10, 2022

Click here to view photo gallery of Derby 2022 at the Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport (SDF).

With all eyes on Louisville for the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby, the Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport (SDF) celebrated its busiest time of the year. Visitors to the city were met with a variety of hospitality efforts on Wednesday, May 4 through Friday, May 6, giving them a red rose welcome.

“Derby is a special time in Louisville,” said Dan Mann, Executive Director of the Louisville Regional Airport Authority. “We are proud to serve as the community’s front door and allow Derby visitors to get their first taste of what we’re all about by providing a best-in-class experience.”

This year saw the return of pre-pandemic welcome efforts for more than 27,600 scheduled arrival seats during this period, which was 98% of 2019’s capacity and the airport’s best year ever. Thursday, May 5 was the busiest of the three-day period with more than 12,000 scheduled arriving seats.

To greet the thousands of arriving travelers, festive, live music was performed by 80 musicians from morning until midnight. The talent of these performers, who are part of the Louisville Federation of Musicians (Local 11-637), immediately set the tone for their time in the city. So much so that passengers occasionally turned the area into an instant dance floor.

In addition to the live music, the rotunda area where Concourses A and B meet, is a hub of active and the perfect Selfie Stop. A nearly-life-sized horse, decorated with a Garland of Roses sits in the airport’s very own Winner’s Circle. A replica Finish Line post met passengers as they nearly crossed the line to exit to the terminal’s post-security areas.

Visitors from around the globe are also welcomed by ‘Derby Greeters,’ who are fashioned in festive attire, complete with a Derby-inspired hat or fascinator. These Greeters offer a taste of the Commonwealth as they distributed 30,000 complimentary Woodford Reserve® bourbon balls over the three-day period. The Jerry E. Abramson Terminal was also decorated with more than 3,000 fresh red roses from the gate area to baggage claim.

A mock Garland of Roses was displayed on the ticketing level, compliments of The Kroger Company. This display showcased the delicate craftsmanship and rich history that was crowned to Rich Strike in the Winner’s Circle at Churchill Downs, following this year’s Running of the Roses.

‘Departure Sunday’ or the Sunday immediately following Derby Saturday, is typically the airport’s busiest day each year as the majority of visitors depart Louisville. To wish them well on their journey home, soft, soothing live music was performed outside Book & Bourbon Southern Kitchen and The Comfy Cow as folks queue for the TSA security checkpoint and in the rotunda, at the entrance of Concourses A and B.

“Sunday, May 8 was the busiest day at SDF in 2022,” added Mann. “More than 14,000 departure seats were scheduled, but we were ready for them. In working with our partners at TSA, they have it down to a science to efficiently get Derby visitors screened and onto their gates.”

In addition, an influx of private and business jets were welcomed to SDF. From, Wednesday May 4 through Monday, May 9. It was estimated the Fixed Base Operator (FBO), Atlantic Aviation would handle 600 to 700 aircraft during this time with nearly 300 on the ground at Post Time for the Running of the Roses. To accommodate parking the private aircraft, SDF staff closed more than two miles of taxiways on the airfield.