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Louisville’s Airport Ready to Welcome Race Fans for Kentucky Derby 150

May 2, 2024

SDF Sees Significant Passenger Capacity Increase, All Set to Greet Visitors from Around the World

The Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport (SDF) is celebrating its busiest time of year ahead of the 150th anniversary of the running of the Kentucky Derby. From Wednesday, May 1 through Friday, May 3, more than 34,000 arriving seats are scheduled into SDF with a combined 16 nonstop routes added specifically for Derby. It’s during this time, the team at SDF will roll out an authentic Kentucky Derby-themed welcome for arriving race fans.

“Knowing this was Derby 150 and the milestone it would be, we have spent the past year planning and assessing the customer experience at SDF,” said Dan Mann, Executive Director of the Louisville Regional Airport Authority. “We worked diligently with all eight airlines at SDF to bring in more flights, added routes and larger aircraft. We looked closely at our terminal’s operations and expanded the checkpoint from five to seven screening lanes. Plus, visitors this year will experience our completely renovated baggage claim area with new baggage carousels and rental car counters. I am confident the welcome and overall experience they’ll have at SDF will kick off their weekend in the right direction.”

Thursday, May 2 will be the busiest day for arriving Derby-goers when more than 15,300 seats are scheduled across 116 passenger flights. More than 10,300 seats are scheduled on Friday, May 3 on 86 flights and Wednesday, May 1 will see 74 flights with more than 8,500 scheduled seats. Every airline at SDF has increased their capacity with additional flights or larger aircraft for Derby. (Click here to learn more about the airlines’ capacity increases.)

To greet the thousands of arriving travelers, the rotunda area where Concourses A and B meet becomes a hub of activity and perfect selfie stop. A rotating lineup of festive, live music will be performed by nearly 120 local musicians from morning until midnight on Wednesday, May 1 through Friday, May 3. The talent of these performers, who are part of the Louisville Federation of Musicians (Local 11-637), immediately sets the tone for their time in the city. Occasionally, passengers will even turn the area into an instant dance floor.

A nearly-life-sized Thoroughbred, decorated with its own Garland of Roses sits in the airport’s very own Winner’s Circle. A replica Finish Line post meets passengers as they cross the line to exit to the terminal’s post-security areas. This year also features a specific Kentucky Derby 150 installation that was placed at SDF in partnership with Churchill Downs to mark the milestone anniversary.

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 distribute 30,000 complimentary Woodford Reserve® bourbon balls over the three-day period. The Jerry E. Abramson Terminal is also decorated with more than 3,000 fresh red roses from the gate area to baggage claim.

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

This year on Sunday, May 5, more than 17,000 departing seats are scheduled on board 120-plus flights by the airlines to accommodate the large crowd. Monday, May 6 will also see an increase in departing seats with more than 10,000 currently scheduled.

“We are ready at SDF for Kentucky Derby 150,” added Mann. “We’re expecting near record crowds with significant passenger increases and look forward to giving the city’s visitors a fantastic and memorable welcome when they arrive in Louisville.”