Back to News

Record Number of Passengers for ‘Departure Sunday’ following the Kentucky Derby

May 5, 2019

On Sunday, May 5, the Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport (SDF) celebrated its busiest day ever in the airport’s history with 14,500 departing seats, a 29% increase. For the day, there were a total of 28,000 scheduled seats for arrivals and departures combined. The Sunday after the Kentucky Derby is affectionately known as “Departure Sunday,” which is when most visitors return home from the festivities and is consistently the airport’s busiest day each year. “Derby is always a bustling time for our airport and this year was no exception – it blew us away,” said Dan Mann, Executive Director of the Louisville Regional Airport Authority. “We had 71 mainline aircraft scheduled for Sunday, May 5 – an increase of 136% compared to our average of about 30 on a typical day in the month.

This is a wonderful increase for our airport, and provides an essential service for the Kentucky Derby experience.” On a typical day in May, the Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport handles approximately 7,700 passengers. With the increased traffic, this meant that Sunday, May 5 in Louisville was busier than the John Glenn Columbus International Airport (CMH) in Columbus, OH. The week of the Kentucky Derby always shows significant increase compared to normal operations in Louisville, and serves as the airport’s busiest time each year.

From Wednesday, May 1 through Sunday, May 5, a total of 48,600 arriving and departing seats were scheduled at Louisville’s airport on 441 flights – an overall increase of 22% in passenger capacity. The busiest single day increase was on Friday, May 3 with 34% more scheduled seats over last year. For the Kentucky Derby, the top markets flying into Louisville are Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, New York and Washington, D.C. The Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport is served by six airlines offering flights to more than 30 nonstop destinations including 19 of the region’s top 20 domestic markets. With just one stop, travelers from across the region can reach more than 460 destinations in the U.S. and worldwide.